The percentage of overweight children in The Netherlands is rising. In 2020, 18.5% of children between 2-25 years old were overweight (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, 2022). From the perspective of the healthcare professionals, long periods between consultations could be used more efficiently and effectively to help these children develop healthier eating patterns and physical activity habits and reach a healthier weight.
Therefore, a multidisciplinary group of habits creation, lifestyle, nutrition and physical activity researchers, healthcare professionals and designers from the creative industries joined forces and recruited students of the THUAS-bachelor programs User Experience Design and Communication & Multimedia Design and a Health Sciences Master student of VU Amsterdam.
From previous projects, we know there are obstacles for overweight children to incorporate the recommendations and assignments given by healthcare professionals into their daily life. In turn, it is also difficult for healthcare professionals to keep track of compliance to their recommendations and assignments. Bridging the gap between the health care centre (on site) and home (off site) could support the care of overweight children and their parents. Digital support through an application is a logical tool for blending on site and off site support. Provided, it fulfils the needs of all involved.
To tackle this, the researchers went to different health care centres to talk to parents, children, and healthcare professionals, in this case physiotherapists and dieticians. These groups are the main stakeholders of the application. The goal was identifying their needs. These needs have been translated into a hi-fi clickable prototype. The prototype created has separate interfaces for healthcare professionals and for children.
“the prototype has a beautiful appearance and already includes some of my wishes mentioned at the beginning of the interview”
The perspectives of healthcare professionals about the use and implementation of digital applications aimed for overweight children were identified. In addition, the value of the designed prototypes was studied qualitatively in interviews with seven healthcare professionals and in an online expert meeting. The prototypes received positive feedback from the professionals. One of them stated “the prototype has a beautiful appearance and already includes some of my wishes mentioned at the beginning of the interview” (Bel, 2022).
The image summarises the wishes and needs for blended care to be better care. Having three students involved in this project had a positive impact on the results. The UX Design students were able to each focus on a group of users, allowing in-depth research and development for the main stakeholders. In addition, the Health Sciences student managed to validate these results on a more abstract theoretical level, allowing to reflect on the design decisions and shed light on both the impact of the application and the necessary next steps. Co-creation in this triangle of users, knowledge experts, and design experts has resulted in a prototype in which theoretical needs are translated into functional design.
Collaborating with such a diverse team has been an enriching experience. We have all learned something new. From the designers we learned about tools, such as visual collaboration tools, that can be used in the design process. In the multidisciplinary expert meeting, feasibility and relevance of all wishes and needs were plotted by each expert and discussed. Consequently, we saw that some wishes and needs were viewed very differently by experts in different fields. The resulting discussion opened our eyes to various points of view. For example, fulfilling some wishes and needs would turn the app into a medical device, with all associated rules and regulations.
The prototype of the application will be exhibited at DDW 2022. The students will be available to talk extensively about their elaboration process and results. The researchers will also be available to think out loud about the following steps regarding the project.