Food and activity logging: insights into the reasons for using food apps

Researchers: Dr Laura Sbaffi, Pam McKinney, Dr Andrew Cox

Use of diet and fitness tracking apps is becoming widespread, with one of the most popular, MyFitnessPal having amassed 75 million registered users worldwide (MyFitnessPal, 2014). Indeed, it is estimated that there are over 10,000 apps that aim to target diet and weight loss alone (Azar et al., 2013). Interest in these apps is increasing: consumer research has shown that 79% of UK adults have some kind of health or fitness goal with 54% of consumers interested in logging or monitoring aspects of activity or wellbeing using apps (Mintel, 2015). In addition to this general interest, specific groups could benefit significantly from such tools but have very different information needs and practices. Those with medical conditions such as diabetes can use them to control their weight and monitor medication intake. Those with IBS can use them to identify the causes of symptoms. Those who run for fitness, wellbeing or as a hobby can use them to support their participation in the sport. What is considered to be information literacy in these different landscapes could vary significantly. However, very little research has been done on how these specific populations are adopting and using logging apps and the information practices they adopt. The Wellcome Trust project we propose will be a mixed method study to investigate how people use apps at as a daily practice, and to identify the barriers to their sustained use. It will produce evidence on which guidelines and support materials could be based for use by organisations who support these communities.

The main objective of this research objective is to build contacts with Diabetes UK, Parkrun UK and the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) network to gain their support for a research proposal to investigate the information behavior and information literacy of food and activity logging using apps.