Technology tO Support ChAnge (TOSCA)

The study, conducted in partnership with Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, and LovedBy Group, explored how digital technology could support health behaviour change in adolescents attending Complications of Excess Weight (CEW) clinics in England. These clinics provide care for children with severe obesity. The research aimed to understand the views of adolescent patients and their families on the use of digital technology to enhance the support provided by CEW clinics and overcome barriers to health behaviour change.

Health Innovation East provided funding for the project as well as providing funding to support this research. Health Innovation East also led the overall project management, including stakeholder management, risk management and reporting.

Evaluation findings:

The study, funded by UEA Health and Social Care Partners and Health Innovation East, involved 38 participants (19 adolescents and 19 family members) in focus groups and co-design workshops. The aim was to explore health priorities, barriers and facilitators of health behaviour change, and how technology could support young people in achieving their health goals.

Participants defined a ‘healthy life’ as good mental health, healthier behaviour patterns, and positive health outcomes. Three key areas lacking adequate support were identified: mental health, sleep, and peer support. These areas, along with overcoming financial barriers and balancing technology use, were seen as facilitators of health behaviour change.

Digital technology was viewed as a potential tool to address these unmet needs, but not as a replacement for face-to-face clinical support. While existing digital interventions were seen as potentially helpful, awareness and utilisation were low.

Participants expressed enthusiasm for a platform that brings together digital resources tailored to individual needs. They valued peer-produced content for its relatability and the potential to reduce feelings of isolation and boost motivation. The use of digital technology to connect young patients and their families with others with similar experiences was also supported.

The study concluded that there is clear potential for digital technology to support the holistic health priorities of young people receiving specialist care for co-morbidities related to excess weight. The findings will be used to develop innovative approaches to using technology to support this high-need group.

Impact case study

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