CSIRO is using web-based searching technologies to generate and deliver dietary information tailored to individuals.
Tailored lifestyle information
CSIRO is encouraging people to adopt healthy lifestyle habits through online and mobile phone technologies.
12 July 2011 | Updated 14 October 2011
Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world.
Obesity increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers and it is set to overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in Australia.
Having a healthy diet and being physically active are known ways of avoiding obesity and reducing its effects.
Through the Preventative Health Flagship, CSIRO is using information and communications (ICT) expertise to help dieters stay on their weight loss program.
CSIRO’s diet and lifestyle research looks at both individuals (making sure they receive information and feedback that is suited to them) and groups, as people who diet with their family and friends tend to lose more weight.
We have developed the weight management mentor mobile phone application and a web portal.
During trials of the technology participants could access diet information, health advice and 160 recipes from CSIRO’s Total Wellbeing Diet books.
The weight management mentor works in real-time, sending appropriate messages, tips and reminders and requesting information on diet, activity and other wellbeing indicators at various times during the day.
The web portal is a social environment in which people can help themselves, and each other, to lose weight. During trials of the technology participants could access diet information, health advice and 160 recipes from CSIRO’s Total Wellbeing Diet books. They were also able to chat online and have their questions answered by clinicians and nutritionists.
Find our more about this work in Lose weight online with CSIRO (Podcast 19 Jul 10).
Delivering personalised information
Behind both of these technologies lies an intelligent software tool called a tailoring engine that knows an individual’s preferences and, through monitoring the system, what they’ve been up to: what they’ve eaten, how much exercise they’ve taken and so on.
The tailoring engine uses this information to personalise messages, such as encouragement for an individual to stick with their exercise program or suggestions of meals and help with generating a shopping list.
This tailoring engine distinguishes our work from existing weight management programs as we are able to deliver information that is more relevant (and therefore more likely to be accepted and acted upon) than 'one size fits all' packages.
Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle should improve people’s health outcomes and this should contribute to reduced healthcare costs.
The tailoring engine and associated support system is applicable to any situation where compliance needs to be maintained and/or personalised information delivered.
This could include:
- other health domains, such as diabetes management
- water management, providing relevant information to farmers, meteorologists, water agencies, environmental planners and emergency services
- coastal management, providing environmental information relevant to each use such as recreation, industry aquaculture and local councils
- improving energy efficiency, such as making people aware of their energy consumption patterns and supporting their decisions to reduce energy use.
The weight management mentor application was developed with Tasmanian company Verdant Health.
We are also applying our tailoring engine technology to deliver customised information to those at risk of developing colorectal cancer as a concept demonstrator for the Cancer Council of Australia.
Read about another of our ICT-enabled healthy lifestyle projects: Getting young gamers to be more active.