By Katherine Kim, San Francisco State University, iN Touch Principal Investigator.Our project is in full swing and that means we are increasingly clear about the promise that lies ahead if we are successful. As often happens, the more we talk about the project, the more we find others working on similar issues.
Last week, I met Professor Karl-Walter Kohlmann, a German health psychologist who was visiting San Francisco State. He kindly sent me two recent papers from his research group. The first paper highlighted the high rates of anxiety and depression among children and teens who are overweight or obese. The other paper showed a difference in negative coping strategies (overeating, social isolation, computer and television use, etc.) used by children who saw themselves as overweight/obese vs. those who saw themselves as not (even if their BMI was in the overweight/obese range). It heightened my awareness of how thoughtfully and carefully we must interact with youth in our project so as not to perpetuate the problem by over-identifying them with a clinical label. We want to protect their identity and esteem while we help them realistically change their health behavior.
The paper recommended that treatment components for youth include nutrition, physical activity and behavioral skills (e.g. stress management, self-regulation and evaluation skills, and social support). I think we are on the right track with iN Touch by helping the patient manage activities related to all three components. I do have a question though. Might the use of the iPhone/iPod Touch increase the positive social integration of our population of teens by giving them another means of communication and another supportive person to engage with, the health coach? Or, will the device end up like the TV and computer, an enabler of sedentariness and isolation.I’d love to hear what you think.