Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Katie A. Siek

Second Advisor

Clayton H. Lewis

Third Advisor

Dirk C. Grunwald

Fourth Advisor

Stephen E. Ross

Fifth Advisor

Kenneth M. Anderson

Abstract

Low socioeconomic status (SES) populations are prone to higher risks of acquiring chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Among the major causes are individuals' everyday health-related decisions that affect their long term health, in particular their dietary and physical activities. In my research, I designed a sociotechnical intervention to improve the awareness and healthiness of snacks for a low SES population.

In this research, I employed participatory and user-centered design techniques by engaging the population through a user needs assessment, prototype evaluation, and a pilot intervention field-trial study. For the needs assessment study, I used multimedia-elicitation interviews to understand the health routines of the target population. Needs assessment findings showed that generally the population had poor dietary habits and unhealthy snacking was a major contributing factor. I also found that the target population used mobile phones that were their preferred platform for a sociotechnical dietary intervention. Based on these findings, I evaluated multiple prototype designs with twenty six caregivers to explore the usability and demographic-specific interfaces of the prototypes. I found that the parents preferred a basic, management-style design, while the teenagers wanted gaming mechanics in the application. The optimal prototype designs for each group were developed into a functional mobile phone application that was evaluated by ten low SES families during a twelve-week field trial. At the end of the field trial, the intervention group's diet was significantly healthier than the control group. The low SES families consistently used the mobile application with demographic-specific interfaces. While the parents found value in managing their family health, the teenagers were motivated by snacking game and competed enthusiastically against their parents. Both parents and teenagers mentioned that the application made them aware about their snacking, and provided useful information about healthier snacks.

While my research lays the foundation for mobile snack application design for low SES populations, it provides many future research directions such as investigation of various gaming interfaces (e.g., competition versus cooperation), theory driven application designs, considerations for multicultural community intervention design, dietary information retrieval systems, complex snack rating mechanisms, and exible interface relevance.

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