mHealth and The Canada Food Guide

This blog is inspired by recent changes in The Canada Food Guide (Hui, 2017), and discusses how mHealth is already a part of day to day life for many people, through the use of applications (apps) that promote healthy eating.

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canada-food-guides.html

The Canada Food Guide, created by the Government of Canada, has been used as a resource for people of all ages and educational backgrounds to promote a balanced diet for good health. Initial versions of the Guide were associated with wartime rationing, and provided “rules” for appropriate resource use. Since that time, the Canadian Government has moved it’s focus to health promotion, with the most recent iteration focusing on decreased dairy and meat consumption, and the integration of cultural foods, environmental sustainabiltiy, and alternative diets (Hui, 2017).

These changes to the Canada Food Guide are reflected in it’s own mobile application,”My Food Guide”, which allows users to examine government recommendations for their own personal specifications (Apple App Store). Mobile health apps, and diet apps in particular, have a known association with “healthier eating behaviours and BMI in adolescents” (De Cock, 2017). Research has also indicated that “the use of diet/nutrition apps is associated with diet-related behaviour change” (West, 2017). These findings, from independent studies, have positive implications for all mobile health interventions, not just mobile diet applications. Evidence of behavioural change associated with app use is particularly encouraging; this means that the ways in which information is shared and interacted with through technology has a tangible effect on the behaviours, and consequential health effects, of mHealth users.

The recent changes to the Food Guide provide a new opportunity for the study of mobile health apps; will these changes be reflected in public behaviour, and to what degree is that influenced by the mobile application itself?

References:

  • Hui, A. (2017, Jul 19). Inside the big revamp of Canada’s Food Guide. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/a-taste-of-whats-to-come-inside-the-big-revamp-of-canadas-food-guide/article35728046/
  • De Cock, N., Vangeel, J., Lachat, C., Beullens, K., Vervoort, L., Goossens, L., … & Eggermont, S. (2017). Use of Fitness and Nutrition Apps: Associations With Body Mass Index, Snacking, and Drinking Habits in Adolescents. JMIR mHealth and uHealth5(4).
  • West, J. H., Belvedere, L. M., Andreasen, R., Frandsen, C., Hall, P. C., & Crookston, B. T. (2017). Controlling Your “App” etite: How Diet and Nutrition-Related Mobile Apps Lead to Behavior Change. JMIR mHealth and uHealth5(7), e95.

By Pooja Patel & Cate Giffin