Evaluating the Integration of Physical Activity Content for People with Disabilities into an mHealth Format

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Reissner, Brock Michael
Physical Activity , Disability , mHealth , Behaviour Change Theory
mHealth apps offer one way for people with disabilities to self-manage their physical activity behaviour and to achieve and maintain well-being. However, the design and content of physical activity apps do not meet the accessibility and inclusion needs of diverse user groups. For example, the ParticipACTION app, a physical activity app made by the Canadian non-profit organization to encourage Canadians to move more, is not inclusive. To address this shortcoming and to model a practical approach to knowledge translation, we developed and implemented a process for creating evidence-based, disability-specific content for the ParticipACTION app. Thirty pieces of evidence-based, inclusive content were created and integrated into the ParticipACTION app. Using the RE-AIM framework as a guide, this thesis explores and evaluates the integration of mHealth physical activity content designed for people with disabilities into the ParticipACTION app. The RE-AIM framework was operationalized to include indicators for (1) Reach, which was measured by the proportion of app users that have a disability; (2) Effectiveness, which was measured by the total number of inclusive content consumed by people with disabilities; (3) Adoption; which was measured by the number of inclusive articles that were integrated into the ParticipACTION app; (4) Implementation; which was measured by calculating the percentage of ParticpACTION’s yearly budget that is now dedicated to inclusive content development and; (5) Maintenance; which was measured by calculating the number of ParticipACTION staff identified to maintain this work overtime. Data sources included in-app surveys and challenges available in the ParticipACTION app. Connection to fitness trackers allows for physical activity behaviour to be tracked in the app. Descriptive analyses revealed that reach is low, with only 3.2% of new app users having a disability. Although the ParticipACTION app now has content relevant to people with disabilities, few users are engaging with the content. The findings emphasize the importance of utilizing a knowledge translation approach to implement disability-specific physical activity content into an mHealth format. This work presents considerations for researchers and health promoters aiming to develop appropriate mHealth intervention integration and evaluation techniques for adults living in Canada, and more specifically, those with disabilities.
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