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Press release

Diet phone could slash NHS costs and improve health of the nation

A new diet phone may have the potential to improve Scotland’s notoriously bad health record by allowing a much larger percentage of the population to have their diets monitored.

The DietPhone application, developed by an academic and a technician at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, uses mobile phone technology to collect and monitor what people eat.

With obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease high on Scotland’s public health agenda, the DietPhone presents a very real opportunity to improve the population’s health by monitoring a larger number of people than ever before, many of whom may be at risk of developing chronic disease.

The use of the DietPhone would allow more Scots to be advised on their diet and health conditions at a primary care level, with the aim of reducing the possibility of people developing more serious conditions which have to be treated at hospital. 

DietPhone uses mobile phone technology to collect a person’s dietary intake data. The specially devised programme, which can be downloaded onto an average mobile phone, has  approximately 2000 individual food items based on the complete food database published by the Food Standard Agency and  10,000 portion sizes stored on it.  After each meal or snack the user can record what foods they consumer on their mobile phone. The data is then sent, in real time, by GPRS to a central computer. The dietary information from each mobile phone can then be interpreted by a dietitian or nutritionist with the appropriate feedback given to the patient.

Michael Clapham, lecturer and researcher in nutrition at Queen Margaret University, explained:”Collecting dietary intake information from individuals is extremely time consuming, costly and complicated. People usually fill in a diet diary for between three to seven days which involves writing down descriptions of what food has been eaten and how much. This then has to be delivered to a dietitian or  nutritionist who has to painstakingly go through the paperwork to analyse the results. Often, due to embarrassment and lack of time, the food intake is not recorded accurately.”

DietPhone provides a cost effective and reliable method to monitor dietary intake, and because it happens in real time, people don’t forget what they have consumed. Michael said: “People can input the information about what food they have consumed immediately after their meal by using a simple drop down menu on their phone. The method is discrete and non invasive, and so encourages people to participate in diet monitoring. It cuts out the need to fill out paperwork and can be used while on the ‘go’.

With mobile phone technology now so widely accepted, especially by young people, there is little doubt that the method could be used to assist a much wider number of people while at the same time slashing the amount of man hours required by health practitioners to analyse people’s diet.”

Ken Aitchison, the technical researcher on the phone, believes that the technology has the ability to assist our overstretched NHS more effectively deal with diet related illness.

He said: ”We see huge potential for the NHS to use DietPhone to allow more people than ever before to benefit from specialist dietary advice. Not only could this technology be used to assist Scotland deal with some of its most significant health problems, the simple technology has the potential to improve the health of different groups of people on a global scale.”

The researchers believe that the DietPhone presents the opportunity to monitor specific groups within the UK population, such as teenagers and busy working professionals without the traditional cost and time implications. But, aside from the benefits that could be derived from using the technology within the NHS, sporting organisations are keen to investigate the Dietphone’s impact on athletes’ performance

Michael Clapham concluded: “We are now very keen to demonstrate the economic and health benefits by trialling DietPhone within the NHS. We would now be delighted to hear from health professionals and private organisations about how we can exploit this technology for the benefit of society as a whole.”

ENDS

For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mob: 07711 011239, Email: lrussell@qmu.ac.uk

 

 

last modified 26/10/10 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU - Tel: +44 (0)131 474 0000
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