One of the recent trends is using digital technology in the development of interventions for health behavior change. Such interventions help users learn healthy behaviors and manage their health issues by using such digital methods as serious games, mobile phone applications, wearables, etc.
However, the use of technology for health behavior change creates many questions:
- How can we effectively use technology to design innovative solutions for health problems?
- How people can be motivated to follow healthy habits and reduce their health-compromising behaviors?
- Once motivated, how individuals can be kept to stay motivated?
- How digital services for health behaviour change can be designed?
Assumptions about human behaviors can be easily misguided. It is not enough to merely design a few text messages or a game to influence people’s healthy behavior without having an in-depth understanding of human behavior per se. For instance, a young adult can ignore a pop-up message about the harm of consuming soda drinks if he/she doesn’t feel vulnerable to kidney issues due to that. A mobile phone application about healthy eating won’t be useful if the target population does not know how to cook healthy food or has not enough resources (e.g., time or money). To address that, it is important to explore where the actual issues originated and to target those issues with specific digital interventions. Different behavior change theories and methodologies such as the health belief model, planned behavior theory, transtheoretical model of change, and behavior change wheel can help to identify personal, social, and environmental factors associated with health behavior change.
To address the mentioned questions above and create compelling digital technology aimed at changing health behavior, an inter-disciplinary approach is required. It goes beyond just the competencies of designing and selecting effective technologies; it requires an in-depth understanding of potential action sources. In the “Design of Digital Services for Health Behaviour Change” online course at Tallinn University's international winter school in January 2021, students will get an understanding of the main popular theories associated with health behavior change and how factors leading to change in health behavior can be incorporated in digital technology. The participants will be involved in a guided user-centered interaction design process. A result of that process will be a prototype of behavior change aiming digital application or service that could be evaluated with the use of behavior change methodologies. Having a theory-based understanding of factors leading to health change behavior can help develop a better digital intervention to change health behavior. In addition to providing theory-based insight, this course will also equip students with the knowledge-based theory about assessing and monitoring the outcome of interventions.