Mobile app intervention of a randomized controlled trial for patients with obesity and those who are overweight in General Practice: user engagement analysis quantitative study

Vera Helen Buss, Margo Barr, Sharon M. Parker, Alamgir Kabir, Annie Y. S. Lau, Siaw Teng Liaw, Nigel Stocks, Mark F. Harris

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Background: The Health eLiteracy for Prevention in General Practice trial is a primary health care-based behavior change intervention for weight loss in Australians who are overweight and those with obesity from lower socioeconomic areas. Individuals from these areas are known to have low levels of health literacy and are particularly at risk for chronic conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The intervention comprised health check visits with a practice nurse, a purpose-built patient-facing mobile app (mysnapp), and a referral to telephone coaching. Objective: This study aimed to assess mysnapp app use, its user profiles, the duration and frequency of use within the Health eLiteracy for Prevention in General Practice trial, its association with other intervention components, and its association with study outcomes (health literacy and diet) to determine whether they have significantly improved at 6 months. Methods: In 2018, a total of 22 general practices from 2 Australian states were recruited and randomized by cluster to the intervention or usual care. Patients who met the main eligibility criteria (ie, BMI>28 in the previous 12 months and aged 40-74 years) were identified through the clinical software. The practice staff then provided the patients with details about this study. The intervention consisted of a health check with a practice nurse and a lifestyle app, a telephone coaching program, or both depending on the participants' choice. Data were collected directly through the app and combined with data from the 6-week health check with the practice nurses, the telephone coaching, and the participants' questionnaires at baseline and 6-month follow-up. The analyses comprised descriptive and inferential statistics. Results: Of the 120 participants who received the intervention, 62 (52%) chose to use the app. The app and nonapp user groups did not differ significantly in demographics or prior recent hospital admissions. The median time between first and last app use was 52 (IQR 4-95) days, with a median of 5 (IQR 2-10) active days. App users were significantly more likely to attend the 6-week health check (2-sided Fisher exact test; P<.001) and participate in the telephone coaching (2-sided Fisher exact test; P=.007) than nonapp users. There was no association between app use and study outcomes shown to have significantly improved (health literacy and diet) at 6 months. Conclusions: Recruitment and engagement were difficult for this study in disadvantaged populations with low health literacy. However, app users were more likely to attend the 6-week health check and participate in telephone coaching, suggesting that participants who opted for several intervention components felt more committed to this study. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12617001508369; International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID): RR2-10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023239.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere45942
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2024. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • health behavior
  • health literacy
  • mHealth
  • mobile application
  • mobile phone
  • mysnapp app
  • obesity
  • overweight
  • primary health care
  • vulnerable populations
  • weight loss


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