The BigO project in clinics
We all want children to be able to grow-up healthily. Unfortunately, many current living environments discourage healthy behaviours, such as exercise and healthy diets. The BigO project aims to gather information on how (un)healthy the behaviours and living environments of different children are, including both children with obesity and children with a recommended weight. Combining information from many children will allow us to detect which aspects of behaviour and living environments are important determinants of obesity risk. With this information, supported by complex analyses, public health policies can be made more effective so that healthy behaviour within children’s living environments can be encouraged, rather than discouraged.
How does BigO data collection work in the clinic?
In the BigO project, children become citizen scientists while helping their clinical trajectory by collecting information on their own living environment and personal behaviour. This information consists of both objective measurements (such as pictures of food, how much they walk) and subjective measurements (such as mood, satiety). Information on children’s eating habits, physical activity, sleeping characteristics and photographs of food advertisements is collected via the myBigOapp, on mobile phones and smartwatches.
“I think it is an application that helps us understand our eating habits. And the smartwatch helps us to know our physical condition (etc). I would not improve anything” – Girl (14 years old), Greece
BigO data collection in clinics is either continuous over a period of four weeks, or interrupted by an intervention period. Preliminary evaluation of the BigO system in the clinics showed that it can be a useful behavioural monitoring toolset to monitoring the progress of site-specific clinical interventions. For example, patients may use the myBigO app and smartwatch for 2 weeks in two repeated instances (4 weeks total), once before and once after an intervention period. If part of the local treatment protocol, the Mandometer device can also be used by the patients. At this moment, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland and the Biomedical Research Foundation Academy in Athens, Greece are actively participating in BigO.
“I believe that this application can help anyone to pay attention to how their plate looks like and what they consume” – Girl (14 years old), Greece
From the collected information, behavioural indicators about eating habits, physical activity and the living environment can be used to help clinicians in carrying out obesity treatment. Although these data are de-identified in the myBigOapp before they are sent to BigO servers, clinicians can access patient information via the clinical portal. Using a database stored outside the BigO system, they are able to match de-identified data to a specific patient.
“This app helps me to take a picture of what I eat and send it to the hospital, and if I eat something that I should not, the doctors make suggestions for what I should eat during my next visit” – Girl (10 years old), Greece
From the different behavioural and environmental factors, group behaviour patterns and personal behaviour patterns are extracted. Information on these aspects of the children in the clinic can be compared to the local environment and community, as well as to BMI distribution. With the recorded behavioural data, we can explore whether behavioural information can predict a change in standardised BMI over the course of months, for clinical purposes.
What is the use of BigO?
Next to aiding in individual patient treatment, myBigO data collected from children with obesity can also be used to analyse behaviours on the group level. Advanced analytical techniques can create comprehensive population models explaining how, and which, behavioural patterns and environmental characteristics interact and influence obesity prevalence. Public health authorities will be able to use the data collected in BigO to plan effective health policies to reduce childhood and adolescent obesity. Additionally, they can use BigO data to predict the efficacy of policies in specific communities, and monitor the progress of these policies.
On the individual patient level, BigO will allow the participating clinical partners to integrate new technological tools in their clinical practice, leading to improved individual health services, also allowing the patient to access to relevant personal behavioural data (data as defined by localised clinical practices).
Would you like to know more about the BigO project?
Please feel free to contact us via the BigO contact page.
BigO never collects directly identifiable patient information (e.g. names, birthdays) and uses automatically generated study-identification IDs (such as patient.user.001). Data that is collected is sent to the BigO server after removing irrelevant data generated by the smartphone. Sent data is anonymised and encrypted. Data is stored exclusively in European data centres and complies with the EU Directive 95/46/EC and the newer EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).