To review eHealth intervention studies for adults and children that targeted behavior change for physical activity, healthy eating, or both behaviors.
Systematic literature searches were performed using five databases: Medline, PsychInfo, CINAHL, ERIC, and the Cochrane Library to retrieve articles.
Articles published in scientific journals were included if they evaluated an intervention for physical activity and/or dietary behaviors, or focused on weight loss; used randomized or quasi-experimental designs; measured outcomes at baseline and a follow-up period; and included an intervention where participants interacted with some type of electronic technology either as the main intervention or an adjunct component. All studies were published between 2000 and 2005.
Eighty-six publications were initially identified, of which 49 met the inclusion criteria (13 physical activity publications, 16 dietary behaviors publications, and 20 weight loss or both physical activity and diet publications), and represented 47 different studies. Studies were described on multiple dimensions, including sample characteristics, design, intervention, measures, and results. eHealth interventions were superior to comparison groups for 21/41 (51%) studies (3 physical activity, 7 diet, 11 weight loss/physical activity and diet). Twenty-four studies had indeterminate results, and in four studies the comparison conditions outperformed eHealth interventions.
Published studies of eHealth interventions for physical activity and dietary behavior change are in their infancy. Results indicated mixed findings related to the effectiveness of eHealth interventions. Interventions that feature interactive technologies need to be refined and more rigorously evaluated to fully determine their potential as tools to facilitate health behavior change.