Impact of Technology on Health Behaviors

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Health related technology involves computers, the internet, websites, mobile phones, trackers, apps, and a lot more. And all of them may influence our health behaviors. This lesson points out a few ways this may occur.

Health & Tech

Our health is very important to us. Over the last century and a half, technology related to health has boomed. We have discovered miracle drugs that cured us from deadly diseases, and developed new surgical tools and methods that have saved countless lives. One thing that many never saw coming was how technology, especially electronic technology, would influence health-related behaviors. We knew technology would influence our health, sure, but our health behaviors?

Mobile Technology

The exact impact of technology on influencing health behaviors is still being researched. Some research has shown that people who used mobile technology as part of a more comprehensive weight loss program were more likely to lose weight in the short-term compared to people who tried to lose weight on their own. This isn't to imply that the mobile technology is what ultimately caused the person to lose weight. It's just one tool in the program.

Similarly, it's been shown that mobile apps that use text messaging to help a person quit smoking can double the chances a smoker will quit, at least in the short term. In the long run, success is not as likely. This is why, again, using the mobile technology alone isn't enough to influence some behaviors over the long term. But such tech could be integrated into a more traditional program designed to help a person quite smoking.

As you've probably gathered by now, a lot of the health related technology that may influence health behavior is based on mobile phones, namely the smartphones. That's because unlike our personal computers, these guys are always near us or even attached to us through a variety of internal and external sensors that feed data back to the cell phone's apps for analysis.

For instance, fitness trackers that monitor things like pulse and step count may influence the ways we exercise. Self-monitoring of one's health behavior is important for changing a person's heart health. In other words, many apps and devices that track your step count, calorie count, and heart rate may help you understand if you're exercising enough or eating too much. More research need be done on whether or not wearable devices like this actually help a person get more physical activity. For some it may and for others it may not.

On A Global Scale

Then there's video technology. Video chat technology has allowed people all over the world to share important health information that can influence a person's health behavior. This telemedicine has given people with no or little access to quality medicine a shot at receiving information from a physician, perhaps half-way across the world. It's one thing to sift through the internet and (hopefully) understand what to do for their particular problem. It's completely different to be able to explain the problem to a doctor and have them advise the person in simple language what to do next. The former requires a lot of effort and skill and the latter is far more natural.

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