New technology to fight obesity
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A new SF State study is using technology to promote healthier lifestyles for obese college students --high blood pressure and high cholesterol are not just their grandfathers' issues anymore.

According to research from the University of New Hampshire, people between the ages of 18 and 24 are at a much higher risk of facing chronic health disease in the future then ever before.

Katherine Kim, biology professor in residence at SF State's Health Equity Institute, said the rate of obesity among children and adults has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.

"The longer we wait to treat obesity, the worse it's going to be for our entire population as they get into adulthood," she said.

Kim, along with Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Christina Sabee, is currently taking part in a two-year study testing how effective smartphones can be in helping people maintain a healthy lifestyle and decrease the risks from obesity.

By developing an application for iPhones and iPods that can track the food and portions you are eating, calculate your workout and allow you to text message with health coaches, Kim and Sabee hope to empower patients by allowing them to manage their own health.

"So much of our health system is focused on the clinician and the doctor telling the patient what to do, but by using this technology it really centers all the decision making and puts the information in the patient's hands," Kim said. "They get to decide what they do with it."

The study is one of five funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Project HealthDesign.

It will first look at overweight or obese youth at San Francisco General Hospital's Teen Clinic and by April will include focus groups consisting of SF State students as well.
After the two-year study on selected participants within San Francisco is complete, the application will become available to the public through thecarrot.com, a Web site that allows users to freely and anonymously track their health data.

Sabee, whose research focuses primarily on doctor-patient communication, believes that the use of technology, like smartphones, has the potential to improve the entire healthcare system.

"Technology is something that we use everyday, and to ignore it and try to get people to not use it seems counterintuitive," Sabee said.

Kim and Sabee hope that their study proves to be a success and that people accept this innovative way of receiving healthcare beyond the confines of a clinic.

Their goal is to provide an outlet for patients to better communicate with their healthcare provider, live healthier lifestyles and comply with different medical advice.

Holly Logan, 22, is one of three SF State grad students helping with the research. Her involvement in the project stems from her interest in health communication.

"Rather then just going in for an annual check-up and trying to remember what you've been working on, you have something to track all of that."

Although the general public will not be able to access the application for two years, it will be free and easily accessible once the study is complete.

"It's really important when you do a research project that you're developing something that is going to be, if it's successful and if it works, something that can be sustained beyond the period of the research project," Kim said.

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