Obesity and Telehealth

The term telehealth covers a lot of ground. It has to do with using electronic technologies to disperse needed information and support vital communication, especially between medical personnel and patients, and includes the ability to ask for and receive advice. People can absorb helpful information and then ask the professionals about the need for and availability of intervention. The technology is particularly brilliant at monitoring everything from a patient’s vital signs to their food intake.

A lot of people cannot walk, and many more do not drive, which is also acutely limiting. A lot of people should not go out because of compromised immunity, or they live too far from the nearest medical center to make a journey practical or possible. Thanks to technology, a medic can not only ask for a description of the symptoms but look at the rash or the swollen throat from afar. All of that is in the specific area of telemedicine, a term that leans toward more direct care.

Expansive telehealth

The larger category of telehealth can include distance learning for professionals, data management, presentations, staff meetings, supervisory sessions, and other functions the patient is not directly connected to.

In the summer of 2012, Janna Stephens, who went on to become a very large presence in the field, wrote this about a certain age group:

[T]he intervention needs to be something that will stimulate them and something they want to do. Adolescents spend hours on their smartphones and use applications to do just about everything. So why not weight loss?

In 2014, Stephens and two co-authors published “Technology-Assisted Weight Management Interventions: Systematic Review of Clinical Trials.” After examining nearly 40 appropriate studies, they concluded that overweight and obese adults could certainly benefit from behavioral interventions assisted by technology. But sadly, out of even such a small number of studies, only a few used mobile devices and…

[…] none was able to identify which features were most responsible for changes in outcomes, and few reported long-term outcomes.

In the following year, Stephens published “Smartphone Technology to Decrease BMI in Overweight and Obese Adolescents.” The object was to arouse interest in studying the use of a smartphone app to help high school students lose weight. She described the application’s purpose as “self-monitoring of dietary habits and physical activity… combined with a one time behavioral counseling session.” She also specified that the philosophical basis for the study was Social Cognitive Theory, “which focuses on strategies to increase self-efficacy for healthy behaviors.”

In the same year Janna Stephens RN, BSN, Ph.D., was also one of three co-authors of “Young Adults, Technology, and Weight Loss: A Focus Group Study.” The researchers sought out the opinions of young adults about obesity, weight-loss counseling, and smartphone technology, and discovered (and remember, this was back in 2015):

Although young adults do not know about specific technology that exists, they are open to learning this technology as long as it fits into their lifestyle.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Technology Can Trim Childhood Obesity,” Newswise.com, 08/09/12
Source: “Technology-Assisted Weight Management Interventions: Systematic Review of Clinical Trials,” LiebertPub.com, 12/22/14
Source: “Smartphone Technology to Decrease BMI in Overweight and Obese Adolescents,” Grantome.com, 01/01/15
Source: “Young Adults, Technology, and Weight Loss: A Focus Group Study,” Nih.gov, 02/18/15
Image by EpicTopTen.com/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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