Upping the standard of online health applications

Tia Haralabakos Uncategorised

This month, the Centre of Research Excellence in Health in Preconception and Pregnancy (CRE HiPP) hears from Dr Cheryce Harrison and Dr Melanie Hayman as they provide an update on their project ‘Improving the safety and credibility of digital healthy lifestyle APPS that target women during pregnancy: an evidence-based approach towards better regulation.’

Dr Harrison and Dr Hayman are recipients of the inaugural Early- and Mid-Career Researcher (EMCR) Small Grants Scheme, announced in August 2021.

In the digital era, women in the pregnancy life-phase are increasingly turning to digital applications, or APPs, for health advice. 

This has resulted in a shift away from receiving advice from traditional sources of information, like health professionals.

Although health-related advice is widely accessible on digital platforms with the touch of a button, the credibility of this information is not always clear.

This could result in receiving inaccurate health information during pregnancy, and may increases injury, complications, and adverse pregnancy outcomes for the mother and child.

In response to this, Dr Harrison and Dr Hayman are aiming to improve the credibility of health information sourced within APPs, so women can trust what they read.

As co-leads in the research investigation, the pair are in the process of pioneering a framework – funded by the CRE HiPP grants scheme – that ciphers the integrity of APP based health information. 

“The framework will evaluate the safety, credibility and evidence-base of APPs targeting lifestyle behaviours,” Dr Hayman said.

APPs that relay diet, physical activity, and weight-based information will be of central focus.

Stakeholders for this project include pregnant women, health professionals and researchers who will contribute to the framework building process.

The outcome of engaging with a multi-disciplinary team of experts is to produce a framework that can be tested, published and disseminated to CRE HiPP networks.

“Pregnancy presents a critical window in which healthy lifestyle behaviours can significantly influence short and long-term health outcomes,” Dr Hayman said. 

“Making a genuine difference and potentially reducing unsafe practises among APPs currently available to pregnant women is most exciting.” 

The team has commenced the research phase that will aim to better define safety of information and digital features within APPs.

Results will be used in a co-design process with stakeholders to design and evaluate the framework.