Nursing study to evaluate if smartphone can help rural men with weight loss

by Vicky Cerino
August 06, 2018

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Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing Northern Division in Norfolk, in collaboration with the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department, are evaluating whether smartphone technology can help rural men lose weight by self-monitoring their eating and activity.

The study is being conducted to determine which of two smartphone-based interventions are most feasible and effective for rural men. Sixty-nine percent of rural Nebraska men are currently overweight or obese, and during midlife, there’s an increased prevalence, said Christine Eisenhauer, Ph.D., a clinical researcher specializing in rural health and the study’s principal investigator at the UNMC College of Nursing in Norfolk. Being overweight or obese is associated with the risk for developing diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint pain, and some cancers.

Researchers are currently recruiting 80 men. Eligibility requirements include those age 40 to 69 who live in northeast Nebraska, have a body mass index of 28 or higher, and have access to a smartphone that is text message-enabled. Study participants will make three visits over a six-month period to the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne where they will fill out surveys, have their blood pressure checked, and be weighed during private sessions.

The Rural Men’s Health Study is a three year, $380,885 clinical trial funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research.

"This study is designed specifically with input from northeast Nebraska men and will reflect their preferences for mobile health technologies that fit their unique lifestyle and workplace needs." Dr. Eisenhauer said. "Small changes in diet and physical activity can significantly decrease weight and lower health risks."

The Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department is providing space and staff for study activities. An advisory board of local community leaders is also involved to provide input and feedback.

"The board has been instrumental in providing insight into the preferences of local men and in identifying resources important in supporting men for success in the study," Dr. Eisenhauer said. "We are grateful for their support and partnership with us and the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department."

One group of study participants will receive a premium version of a self-monitoring app, a smart scale, which allows men to track their weight over time and daily text messages. They also will have the opportunity to participate in a challenge group with other participants.

The second group will receive the basic version of the commercially available app only. Men will self-monitor their weight, eating, and activity for three months. A six-month follow-up visit will evaluate the long-term effectiveness of the intervention.

Julie Rother, a nurse and director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, said she is pleased about the study. "Losing weight can be a daunting task," Rother said. "We all know the impact overweight and obesity have on our health; identifying ways to encourage and support people as they lose weight is an important step toward improving personal and community health."

The UNMC research team also includes: Patricia Hageman, Ph.D., a physical therapist; Aaron Yoder, Ph.D., an agricultural engineer; health behavior change experts, Carol Pullen, Ph.D. and Fabiana Silva, Ph.D; and statistician, Kevin Kupzyk, Ph.D.

For more information about joining the study, contact Jessica Miller, research nurse at jessica.miller@unmc.edu, 402-844-7923 or Dr. Eisenhauer, ceisenhauer@unmc.edu, or 402-844-7897.

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