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Child obesity is a major public health challenge, increasing the risk of chronic medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension. Among U.S. states, Tennessee has one of the highest rates of child obesity. Emerging communication technologies can help to deliver highly disseminable population-level interventions to improve health behavior. The aim of this paper is to report the implementation and the evaluation of the reach of Memphis FitKids, a web-based application, intended to promote healthy behaviors for families and children.
A community-level demonstration project, Memphis FitKids, was developed and implemented in Tennessee’s Greater Memphis Area. This application (www.memphisfitkids.org) was designed for parents to assess their children’s obesity risk through determinants such as weight, diet, physical activity, screen time, and sleep adequacy. A built-in “FitCheck” tool used this collected information to create a report with tailored recommendations on how to make healthy changes. A Geographic Information Systems component was implemented to suggest low-cost neighborhood resources that support a healthy lifestyle. A social marketing framework was used to develop and implement FitKids, and a Community Advisory Board with representatives from community partners (e.g., the YMCA of Memphis, the Pink Palace Family of Museums, and the Memphis Public Library) supported the implementation of the project. Five kiosks distributed in the community served as public access points to provide a broad reach across socioeconomic strata. Presentations at community events and the use of Facebook facilitated the promotion of FitKids. Website traffic and Facebook usage were evaluated with Google Analytics and Facebook Insights, respectively.
In Tennessee, 33,505 users completed 38,429 FitCheck sessions between July 2014 and December 2016. Among these, 6763 sessions were completed at the five kiosks in the community. FitKids was presented at 112 community events and the social media posts reached 23,767 unique Facebook users.
The Memphis FitKids demonstration project showed that web-based health tools may be a viable strategy to increase access to information about healthy weight and lifestyle options for families. Mobile-friendly web-based applications like Memphis FitKids may also serve health professionals in their efforts to support their clients in adopting healthy behaviors.