Improving mobile fitness and weight loss apps to help Saudis overcoming obesity. Case study : Akser Waznk app

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Obesity and its related illnesses are a major health problem around the world. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest national obesity rates globally; however, it is not easy to intervene to prevent obesity and overweightness due to Saudi Arabia’s cultural and social norms and linguistic barriers. In recent years, there has been an exponential growth in the usage of smartphones and apps in Saudi Arabia. These could be used as a cost-effective tool to facilitate the delivery of behaviour modification interventions for obese and overweight people. There are a variety of health and fitness apps that claim to offer lifestyle-modification tools. However, these do not identify the motivational features required to overcome obesity, consider the evidence-based practices for weight management, consider the social and cultural norms of Saudi society, or enhance the usability of apps by considering usability attributes. Therefore, this research aims at improving mobile fitness and weight loss apps usability guidelines and features to motivate obese users and especially Saudis to lose weight and then overcome obesity. Qualitative and quantitative studies were conducted with 26 obese Saudis who tested the level of usability of two Arabic fitness and weight-loss apps and then provided feedback and recommendations. The following usability attributes were tested: effectiveness, efficiency, satisfaction, memorability, errors, learnability and cognitive load. Qualitative studies were also conducted with seven health professionals (dietitians and physical activity professionals) to evaluate the tested apps regarding their nutrition and physical activity options. This was undertaken in collaboration with the Armed Forces hospitals Taif Region and King AbdulAziz Medical City Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Based on the results, comprehensive usability guidelines for fitness and weight loss apps were established and an Arabic weight-loss app called Akser Waznk was developed to facilitate the adjustment of key nutritional and physical activities and behaviours of Saudi users. Akser Waznk app is an interactive, user-friendly app designed primarily for iPhones. It has several features intended to help users to monitor and track their food consumption and physical activities. The app provides personalised diet and weight loss advice. To validate the proposed app, its level of usability was tested and its nutrition and physical activity options evaluated by conducting qualitative and quantitative studies with the same 26 obese Saudi users and the same seven health professionals.
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