Overweight children are a problem here in the USA and throughout the world. With the increase of technology our children have become more sedentary, than the generation before them. Schools are decreasing the amount of physical activity children get, by cutting PE, sports and music programs. A lot of children will get home from school and spend the rest of the day on the couch in front of the TV/video game or in front of the computer. I know not all children follow this pattern; there are many children who have 2-3 sport teams they are a part of each season.
There is an innovative mobile technology program KNOWME Networks that is trying to help combat childhood obesity. According to Donna Spruijt-Metz, MFA, PhD "kids essentially sit down at age 11 and don't get up again." Dr. Spruijt-Metz is involved in the production of KNOWME, which includes a "set of wireless sensors that measure physical activity, stress, location in time and space, body fat, and a number of other factors." Her group is in the process of researching the potential benefits of this mobile devise. Children were brought into the office for motivational training and education about the importance of exercise, but they found it was not successful in helping the children to move more. Once they used the technology and got real time feedback on their movement and/or lack of movement the children did better. The device has not gone into the randomized trial where the subject will wear the same device but not get the messages about their movement to see what changes they notice in the children's movement.
Dr. Spruijt-Metz and her team hope to add sleep and diet components to KNOWME and they also hope to get a Facebook application so kids can see what their friends are up to. Some of the current challenges are batter life, the size and portability of the sensors.
Technology is being studied throughout the world to help people with their health. In Canada a study is looking at the effects of using text messages to help with smoking cessation. Smartphone technology is being used to help people track their diabetes and hypertension. In New Zealand researchers are looking at using text messages and visual messages to help prevent against teenage depression. I know many of my patients are using their cell phone to track the number of calories they are eating and some of patients have downloaded applications that will help them count the number of steps and/or calories that they have burnt on a daily basis.
How can we embrace the influx of technology and use it to help benefit our health? In the long run, can we use technology that in a way has helped to create an obese society, to help them get into shape? I guess only time will tell as to how technology will next change our world.