Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Use of a mobile social networking intervention for weight management: a mixed-methods study protocol
  1. Liliana Laranjo,
  2. Annie Y S Lau,
  3. Paige Martin,
  4. Huong Ly Tong,
  5. Enrico Coiera
  1. Macquarie University, Australian Institute of Health Innovation-Centre for Health Informatics, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Liliana Laranjo; liliana.laranjo{at}


Introduction Obesity and physical inactivity are major societal challenges and significant contributors to the global burden of disease and healthcare costs. Information and communication technologies are increasingly being used in interventions to promote behaviour change in diet and physical activity. In particular, social networking platforms seem promising for the delivery of weight control interventions.

We intend to pilot test an intervention involving the use of a social networking mobile application and tracking devices (Fitbit Flex 2 and Fitbit Aria scale) to promote the social comparison of weight and physical activity, in order to evaluate whether mechanisms of social influence lead to changes in those outcomes over the course of the study.

Methods and analysis Mixed-methods study involving semi-structured interviews and a pre–post quasi-experimental pilot with one arm, where healthy participants in different body mass index (BMI) categories, aged between 19 and 35 years old, will be subjected to a social networking intervention over a 6-month period. The primary outcome is the average difference in weight before and after the intervention. Secondary outcomes include BMI, number of steps per day, engagement with the intervention, social support and system usability. Semi-structured interviews will assess participants’ expectations and perceptions regarding the intervention.

Ethics and dissemination Ethics approval was granted by Macquarie University’s Human Research Ethics Committee for Medical Sciences on 3 November 2016 (ethics reference number 5201600716).

The social network will be moderated by a researcher with clinical expertise, who will monitor and respond to concerns raised by participants. Monitoring will involve daily observation of measures collected by the fitness tracker and the wireless scale, as well as continuous supervision of forum interactions and posts. Additionally, a protocol is in place to monitor for participant misbehaviour and direct participants-in-need to appropriate sources of help.

  • Obesity [Mesh]
  • Exercise [Mesh]
  • Fitness Trackers [Mesh]
  • Social media [Mesh]

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Twitter @LilianaLaranjo

  • Contributors LL, AYSL, PM, HLT and EC developed the protocol, drafted the manuscript, critically revised the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • Funding This research is supported by a grant received from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centre of Research Excellence in Informatics and E-Health (1032664).

  • Competing interests EC and AL could benefit from commercialisation of

  • Ethics approval Macquarie University’s Human Research Ethics Committee for Medical Sciences.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.