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Is an Activity Tracker in the Future for Childhood Obesity Management?

Haynes, Beverly B. MSN, RN, CPN; Browne, Nancy Tkacz MS, PPCNP-BC, CBN

Journal of Pediatric Surgical Nursing: October/December 2015 - Volume 4 - Issue 4 - p 124
doi: 10.1097/JPS.0000000000000076
Pediatric Obesity Column

Beverly B. Haynes, MSN, RN, CPN Bariatric Surgical Coordinator, Children's of Alabama, Birmingham, AL.

Nancy Tkacz Browne, MS, PPCNP-BC Nurse Practitioner, WOW Pediatric Weight Management Program, EMMC/Cutler Health Center, Orono, ME.

The authors have declared no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Beverly B. Haynes, MSN, RN, CPN. E-mail:

Welcome to the Pediatric Obesity Column for JPSN! This column’s mission is to provide information and resources to the pediatric surgical nurse caring for children affected by obesity. Our goal is to share emerging information and strategies based on physiology and biochemistry that can be incorporated into the practitioner’s daily practice.

In the area of fitness, technology continues to be updated at a fast pace. Numerous monitors are available for purchase from the very affordable to the very expensive. They offer a way to track activity, food and water intake, and sleep. Some also offer games and encouragement.

Some physicians have already tapped into this market to assist in personalized treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes and HIV with increasing interest being shown toward this method of monitoring patients outside the medical office. Childhood obesity is now targeted by medical professionals and by companies who recognize the difficulty in obtaining an accurate picture of the daily life of the child and keeping children and families engaged in healthy habits. This short article will introduce readers to types of tracking devices available.

Regular use of monitoring devices is the key to worthwhile patient information. Regular use is enhanced by technical friendliness (easy-to-download software), willingness to be tracked, and device appearance (Chiauzzi, Rodarte, & DasMahapatra, 2015). Kim (2014) predicts that future wearables will not only have the characteristics listed above but also automatically download information, ensuring an accurate picture of the patients’ day-to-day health pattern. Also crucial to the use of activity trackers is that patients feel comfortable that their information remains private no matter how it is relayed to the caregiver (Chiauzzi et al., 2015).

A systematic review by Stephens and Allen (2013) of the use of smartphone applications and text messaging used to promote weight loss and activity noted that, in over half of the studies, statistically significant improvements were realized for weight loss, increased physical activity, healthier dietary intake, decreased body mass index, decreased waist circumference, decreased sugar-sweetened beverage intake, deceased screen time, and satisfaction or acceptability outcomes (Stephens & Allen, 2013). In addition, the data obtained by these means were not stand-alone. Each study was backed by educational components and/or interventions, which are the typical standard used presently by medical professionals (Stephens & Allen, 2013).

The following link provides a current list of activity trackers and the list of criteria the trackers met to be included on this summary. This online site also gives a lesson on how to choose an activity tracker and a detailed review of each one. Here’s to happy tracking!

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Chiauzzi E., Rodarte C., & DasMahapatra P. (2015). Patient-centered activity monitoring in the self-management of chronic health conditions. BMC Medicine, 13, 77. doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0319-2
Kim J. (2014). Analysis of health consumers’ behavior using self-tracker for activity, sleep, and diet. Telemedicine Journal and e-Health, 20 (6), 552–558.
Stephens J., & Allen J. (2013). Mobile phone interventions to increase physical activity and reduce weight: A systematic review. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 28 (4), 320–329. doi:10.1097/JCN.0b013e318250a3e7
Copyright © 2015 American Pediatric Surgical Nursing Association