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Translatability of a wearable technology intervention to increase adolescent physical activity: mixed methods implementation evaluation

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Background Wearable technology interventions combined with digital behavior change resources provide opportunities to increase physical activity in adolescents. The implementation of such interventions in real-world settings is unknown. The Raising Awareness of Physical Activity (RAW-PA) study was a 12-week cluster randomized controlled trial targeting inactive adolescents attending schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of Melbourne, Australia. The aim was to increase moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity using (1) a wrist-worn Fitbit Flex and app, (2) weekly challenges, (3) digital behavior change resources, and (4) email or text message alerts. Objective This paper presents adolescents’ and teachers’ perceptions of RAW-PA in relation to program acceptability, feasibility and perceived impact, adolescent engagement and adherence, and the potential for future scale-up. Methods A mixed methods evaluation of the RAW-PA study assessed acceptability, engagement, feasibility, adherence, and perceived impact. A total of 9 intervention schools and 144 intervention adolescents were recruited. Only adolescents and teachers (n=17) in the intervention group were included in the analysis. Adolescents completed web-based surveys at baseline and surveys and focus groups postintervention. Teachers participated in interviews postintervention. Facebook data tracked engagement with web-based resources. Descriptive statistics were reported by sex. Qualitative data were analyzed thematically. Results Survey data were collected from 142 adolescents at baseline (mean age 13.7 years, SD 0.4 years; 51% males) and 132 adolescents postintervention. A total of 15 focus groups (n=124) and 9 interviews (n=17) were conducted. RAW-PA had good acceptability among adolescents and teachers. Adolescents perceived the intervention content as easy to understand (100/120, 83.3%) and the Fitbit easy to use (112/120; 93.3%). Half of the adolescents perceived the text messages to be useful (61/120; 50.8%), whereas 47.5% (57/120) liked the weekly challenges and 38.3% (46/120) liked the Facebook videos. Facebook engagement declined over time; only 18.6% (22/118) of adolescents self-reported wearing the Fitbit Flex daily postintervention. Adolescents perceived the Fitbit Flex to increase their physical activity motivation (85/120, 70.8%) and awareness (93/119, 78.2%). The web-based delivery facilitated implementation of the intervention, although school-level policies restricting phone use were perceived as potential inhibitors to program roll-out. Conclusions RAW-PA showed good acceptability among adolescents attending schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas and their teachers. Low levels of teacher burden enhanced their perceptions concerning the feasibility of intervention delivery. Although adolescents perceived that RAW-PA had short-term positive effects on their motivation to be physically active, adolescent adherence and engagement were low. Future research exploring the feasibility of different strategies to engage adolescents with wearable technology interventions and ways of maximizing system-level embeddedness of interventions in practice would greatly advance the field.

History

Journal

Journal of medical Internet research

Volume

22

Issue

8

Article number

e13573

Pagination

1 - 16

Publisher

JMIR Publications

Location

Toronto, Ont.

ISSN

1438-8871

eISSN

1438-8871

Language

English

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal