As most people are already aware, obesity represents a growing issue in the present day. Out of every ten children aged 2-15, three are classed as overweight or obese. Whilst ultimately, responsibility lies with parents to regulate their children’s eating habits, monitor their activity levels and teach them the value of eating healthily, other measures have been suggested in order to assist parents with this task. The National Institute for Health Smarter food diaries with automationand Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended that encouraging children to keep food diaries may help them to more carefully consider the foods they eat and the exercise they do. How could this be a step in the right direction towards decreasing the prevalence of obesity, and how can the data within such diaries be further unlocked?

Believing in the hidden powers of data, we believe even something as simple as a food diary could be used to unlock useful insight and knowledge. Whilst something may be gained by assessing the information at face value, smarter data processing could in fact enable us to view our habits in a unique, more telling way, allowing us to address changes that need to be made more immediately and resulting in a preventative approach. A dynamic, interactive dashboard may initially appear as a complicated solution, but we believe the benefits of such a procedure would make the approach well worthwhile. Here’s how we believe the application of this methodology could be achieved in two different scenarios.

Teacher-Child-Parent: Bridging the gap between home and school

Invariably, it may be difficult to identify the source of the problem for children facing obesity, particularly as their lives will be split between home and school life. It naturally stands to reason that any viable solution to tackle childhood obesity should be rolled out into schools first and foremost.

Within a primary school setting, a child’s primary teacher and parent could agree to record a child’s food intake appropriately, using a log book or paper/online journal. Whilst a parent will monitor foods consumed at breakfast and dinner, a teacher will be responsible for monitoring foods eaten during school hours. The logs could then be submitted onto the dashboard for viewing by both teacher and parent.

Such a process would facilitate on-going monitoring of a child’s diet, highlighting any discrepancies and allowing better communication between home and school life in order to address any issues. With an agreed joint diet plan in place and reporting at set intervals, such an approach could last throughout a child’s compulsory education. Older children could of course manage their own entries and participate in reporting and review meetings.

Unfortunately, there are many barriers to the implementation of a process as outlined above, including delegation of responsibility and management of workloads by teachers responsible for classes of 20-30 children. Whilst a strong dashboard will help to alleviate some of these pain-points, it is clear that radical changes will be required in order to address the increasing problems of childhood obesity that will not be without their own difficulties.

Gym Instructors and trainees

For adults actively taking steps towards improving their health, numerous gyms and other health centres may already monitor and document agreed diet plans and food diaries between instructors and trainees. By mapping and managing this information on a dashboard, identification of peaks and troughs would become a much simpler and visual process. In this way, both trainer and trainee would learn more about the impact certain foods have on the performance of an individual, as well as the effects of consumption of different quantities or at different times of the day.

As well as these, related data could also be captured that may be of use:

  •  –  Emotional state: Do certain emotions cause an individual to default to specific types of food?
  •  –  Triggers: Specific foods, such as confectionery or alcohol, may cause a trigger or addiction.
  •  –  Timings: Which times of the day is most food consumed at, and why?
  •  –  Thoughts: Psychologically, thoughts can be linked to triggering feelings of hunger or the desire to exercise or remain inactive. Tracking thoughts may give clues to emotional factors.
  • -   Excuses: If scheduling or food diaries weren’t followed, what was the excuse? Was this acceptable? How could such scenarios be avoided in the future?

Together, including such factors within a food diary would allow much more effective insight into an individual’s eating habits. Beyond tracking what has been eaten, such information presented within a dynamic interactive dashboard can be used as the basis to make informed decisions on the best means of breaking bad eating habits by understanding their underlying triggers.

Food for thought?

Whilst these hypothetical scenarios hint at the possibilities of expanding traditional food diaries to something that can provide much greater insight, it is clear that any system to combat the endemic obesity problem will require a great deal of thought. Questions surrounding the monetary, resources, time and effort costs of implementation would still need to be answered, and relevant parties would have to be persuaded at each step of the way. However, with the right technology partners in place to make the process as pain-free as possible, the practice could deliver measurable results and make marked improvements in the way the obesity crisis is dealt with.

If you would like to learn more about our hopes for how we could assist with such projects in the future, please call us on 0208 903 5432 or email info@documentcapture.co.uk. We’ve previously been involved in a variety of health-related projects, including screening, clinical trials, patient experience and outcomes, as well as raising awareness of certain conditions. Read more about what we do and where our passion, ethics and morals are derived from. If you have a specific project in mind or want to learn more about our past projects contact us and book you free educational knowledge share workshop. The workshop is highly specialised and gives us the opportunity to understand your project in greater detail and offer you the right guidance and support.

 

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