Section for General Practice

Dietary calculator: What are the user expectations?

On May 22nd, the Food4HealthyLife team organised a workshop at Alrek helseklynge in Bergen to learn more about what end users might expect from a healthy eating tool in a mobile phone app.

Gruppebilde av medlemmene i prosjektet Food4HealthyLife
FAM, Universitetet i Bergen

Main content

Food4HealthyLife is a project led by Prof. Lars T. Fadnes at the University of Bergen. It is an international collaboration with partners from the University of Bologna (Italy), University of Glasgow (Scotland), Deakin University (Australia), Newcastle University (England), the recipes app company Vegiano Group (Norway), and the patient organisation LHL (Norway). LHL represents 54 000 members organised in local chapters across all of Norway, with an interest in heart, vascular, and lung diseases, among others.

This project is a response to the social challenges presented by the burgeoning effects of unhealthy eating on global health. The researchers have developed a food pattern calculator, which is a tool that can estimate the health benefits gained by modifications to dietary patterns. The goal is to develop a free mobile phone application that end users can utilise in their everyday lives as a healthy eating tool to improve their dietary health. The success of this app will contribute towards reducing dietary-related risk factors, chronic disease prevention, improved longevity, and ultimately, better population health.

The dietary calculator is a tool based on scientific modelling. Transforming this into a mobile application tool with widespread public uptake means user friendliness and a strong user journey are key. User involvement is integral in the design process of such tools that should respond to the end user’s needs. A recognition that early-stage user involvement can be invaluable in transferring experience-based knowledge to be included in project planning was the project group’s motivation to gather a user panel.

The user panel was comprised of fifteen adults hailing from the Bergen city area, all members of the Norwegian patient organisation LHL. This group was well-placed to provide insight into user expectations for the dietary tool drawing from their own patient perspectives, for example by having been afflicted by cardiovascular disease. As such this was a highly health-conscious panel. The user panel was introduced to the Food4HealthyLife project at the beginning of the workshop. The remainder of the day was dedicated towards breakout sessions and group discussions.

The day’s event provided yielded good discussions and a wide range of practical input on the design of the mobile application, both visually and in terms of content. A red thread through the day was the importance of having a tool that is easy for a lay person to use. For example, the user panel overwhelmingly pointed towards the importance of prioritising developing the language of the tool. First and foremost, native language access was deemed as key; in this case, that would be a Norwegian interface and content. Secondly, the users emphasised the importance of using colloquial language, as opposed to using scientific terms, in effect, science translation for public consumption. As this was a user panel where many have chronic disease, the importance of capturing interactions in terms of both allergies and medicines was also highlighted. In addition, use of images, graphic elements and videos as opposed to text was seen favourably.  

Moving forward, the project representatives present at the workshop will share the outcomes with the rest of the Food4HealthyLife team and will together work to select and integrate feedback into the development of the dietary tool. The team’s priority will be working towards execute a strong first pilot design ready for potential user experience workshops in the future.