Development and Exploratory Findings of a Smartwatch Interface to Facilitate Group Cohesion in a Statewide Health Promotion Program
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Background: Physical inactivity of the general population is a major public health concern in the US and around the world. Community-based interventions that include evidence-based principles of group dynamics are effective at improving individual-level physical activity behaviors as well as changing social norms for health behaviors. The use of technologies such as smartwatches has a potential to channel and amplify underlying group dynamics principles in such interventions. In order to explore the use of smartwatches for group dynamics-based physical activity interventions, a smartwatch centered system was designed and deployed as part of an eight-week pilot study. Objectives: The primary goal of this study was to explore the degree to which smartwatches effectively channel group dynamics strategies in the context of an eight-week community based physical activity intervention. Methods: In this explanatory mixed-methods study, system usage data were analyzed (e.g., frequency of interaction with smartwatch and smartphone) and participant physical activity (e.g., participant steps tracked by the system). To provide a richer picture of the user experience, use of features, and impact of group dynamics, participants were invited to participate in one-on-one interviews after the pilot program. The group dynamics-based questions centered on the individual’s attraction to the group task and socially as well as the individual’s perception of group integration around the task and as a social unit (i.e., the four dimensions of cohesion). The interview recordings were transcribed verbatim and analyzed via an abbreviated grounded theory approach. The system usage data was visually and numerically summarized. Results: Five of the seven participants completed interviews. The interview analysis resulted in 365 meaning units representing 2 themes (related to user experience with devices and manifestations of group dynamic principles), 4 sub-themes and 23 categories. The participants completed 31.3 (SD=2.91) miles per week and engaged with the smartwatch and the Android app 2.6 and 1.5 times a day, respectively. Analysis of interviews and the system usage logs from five participants, reveal sustained engagement with the smartwatch and the smartphone app. The system facilitated self-reflection and awareness in terms of physical activity levels, encouraged interactions with the team members and helped them to stay aware of the daily goals. Additionally, the participants reported habit formation in terms of wearing and using the smartwatch on the daily basis. Implications: This study provides preliminary support that accessible information via the custom smartwatch watchface can be a viable solution for retaining higher participant engagement during group dynamics-based community interventions. Such devices can help expand group-dynamics interventions by making them less depended on in-person delivery methods.
General Audience Abstract
Physical inactivity of the general population is a major public health concern in the US and around the world. Community-based interventions, with group dynamics strategies at the core, are effective at improving individual physical activity behaviors. The use of technologies such as smartwatches has potential to channel and amplify the underlying program principles in such interventions. This work presents a smartwatch-centered system to encourage group cohesion in physical activity interventions, exploring it as part of an eight-week study that revealed participant awareness of group performance through smartwatch interactions.
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