Background: Children with physical disabilities report higher rates of sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy dietary patterns than non-disabled peers. These behaviors can increase comorbidities, caregiver burden, and healthcare costs. Innovative interventions are needed to assist caregivers of children with physical disabilities improve health behaviors.
Objective: /Hypothesis: The purpose of this pilot study was to test the usability and preliminary efficacy of an e-health and telecoaching intervention compared to telecoaching alone.
Methods: Parent/child dyads (n = 65) were randomized into either the e-health and telephone group (e-HT) or the telephone only group (TO). All participants received regular calls from a telecoach, and the e-HT group received access to a website with personalized weekly goals for diet and physical activity, and access to resources to meet these goals. At the conclusion of the intervention, participants in the e-HT group were asked to complete a semi-structured interview to discuss the usability of the e-health platform.
Results: Fifty of the 65 randomized dyads (77%) completed all baseline measures and had at least one intervention call. Forty families (80% of those that started the intervention) completed the study (50% spina bifida, 24% mobility limitation, diagnosis not reported). Age of the children ranged from 6 to 17 years old. Both groups had high adherence to scheduled phone calls (e-HT (n = 17): 81%, TO (n = 23): 86%); however no significant differences in dietary intake or physical activity were seen within or between groups. Primary themes to emerge from qualitative interviewers were: the platform should target children rather than parents, parents valued the calls more than the website, and schools need to be involved in interventions.
Conclusions: E-health interventions are a promising way to promote healthy behaviors in children with physical disability, but technology must be balanced with ease of use for parents while also engaging the child.