Using new technologies to promote weight management: a randomised controlled trial study protocol
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Background: Over the last three decades, overweight and obesity and the associated health consequences have become global public health priorities. Methods that have been tried to address this problem have not had the desired impact, suggesting that other approaches need to be considered. One of the lessons learned throughout these attempts is that permanent weight loss requires sustained dietary and lifestyle changes, yet adherence to weight management programs has often been noted as one of the biggest challenges. This trial aims to address this issue by examining whether social media, as a potential health promotion tool, will improve adherence to a weight management program. To test the effectiveness of this measure, the designated program will be delivered via the popular social networking site Facebook, and compared to a standard delivery method that provides exactly the same content but which is communicated through a pamphlet. The trial will be conducted over a period of twelve weeks, with a twelve week follow-up. Although weight loss is expected, this study will specifically investigate the effectiveness of social media as a program delivery method. The program utilised will be one that has already been proven to achieve weight loss, namely The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet.Methods/design: This project will be conducted as a 3-arm randomised controlled trial. One hundred and twenty participants will be recruited from the Perth community, and will be randomly assigned to one of the following three groups: the Facebook group, the pamphlet group, or a control group. The Facebook Group will receive the weight management program delivered via a closed group in Facebook, the Pamphlet Group will be given the same weight management program presented in a booklet, and the Control Group will follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults as usual care. Change in weight, body composition and waist circumference will be initial indicators of adherence to the program. Secondary outcome measures will be blood glucose, insulin, blood pressure, arterial stiffness, physical activity, eating behaviour, mental well-being (stress, anxiety, and depression), social support, self-control, self-efficacy, Facebook activity, and program evaluation. Discussion: It is expected that this trial will support the use of social media - a source of social support and information sharing - as a delivery method for weight management programs, enhancing the reduction in weight expected from dietary and physical activity changes. Facebook is a popular, easy to access and cost-effective online platform that can be used to assist the formation of social groups, and could be translated into health promotion practice relatively easily. It is anticipated in the context of the predicted findings that social media will provide an invaluable resource for health professionals and patients alike.
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