JMIR mHealth and uHealth (2020-04-01)

Impact of a Mobile Phone App to Increase Vegetable Consumption and Variety in Adults: Large-Scale Community Cohort Study

  • Hendrie, Gilly A,
  • Hussain, M Sazzad,
  • Brindal, Emily,
  • James-Martin, Genevieve,
  • Williams, Gemma,
  • Crook, Anna

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 4
p. e14726


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BackgroundLarge-scale initiatives to improve diet quality through increased vegetable consumption have had small to moderate success. Digital technologies have features that are appealing for health-related behavior change interventions. ObjectiveThis study aimed to describe the implementation and evaluation of a mobile phone app called VegEze, which aims to increase vegetable intake among Australian adults. MethodsTo capture the impact of this app in a real-world setting, the Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance framework was utilized. An uncontrolled, quantitative cohort study was conducted, with evaluations after 21 and 90 days. The app was available in the Apple App Store and was accompanied by television, radio, and social media promotion. Evaluation surveys were embedded into the app using ResearchKit. The primary outcomes were vegetable intake (servings per day) and vegetable variety (types per day). Psychological variables (attitudes, intentions, self-efficacy, and action planning) and app usage were also assessed. Descriptive statistics and multiple linear regression were used to describe the impact of the app on vegetable intake and to determine the characteristics associated with the increased intake. ResultsData were available from 5062 participants who completed the baseline survey; 1224 participants completed the 21-day survey, and 273 completed the 90-day survey. The participants resided across Australia and were mostly women (4265/5062, 84.3%) with a mean age of 48.2 years (SD 14.1). The mean increase in intake was 0.48 servings, from 3.06 servings at baseline to 3.54 servings at the end of the 21-day challenge (t1223=8.71; P<.001). The variety of vegetables consumed also increased by 0.35 types per day (t1123=9.59; P<.001). No changes in intake and variety were found from day 21 to the 90-day follow-up. Participants with the highest app usage increased their vegetable intake by 0.63 (SD 2.02) servings per day compared with 0.32 (SD 1.69) servings per day for those with the lowest app usage. On the basis of multiple linear regression, gender; age; BMI; psychological variables of self-efficacy, attitudes, intentions, and action planning specific to vegetable intake; baseline vegetable intake; and active days of app usage accounted for 23.3% of the variance associated with the change in intake (F9,1208=42.09; P<.001). Baseline vegetable intake was the strongest predictor of change in intake (beta=−.495; P<.001), with lower baseline intake associated with a greater change in intake. Self-efficacy (beta=.116; P<.001), action planning (beta=.066; P=.02), BMI (beta=.070; P=.01), and app usage (beta=.081; P=.002) were all significant predictors of the change in intake. ConclusionsThe VegEze app was able to increase intake by half a serving in a large sample of Australian adults. Testing the app in a real-world setting and embedding the consent process allowed for greater reach and an efficient, robust evaluation. Further work to improve engagement is warranted.