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Title: Longitudinal Validity and Reliability of Brief Smartphone Self-Monitoring of Diet, Stress, and Physical Activity in a Diverse Sample of Mothers
Background Multiple strategies can be used when self-monitoring diet, physical activity, and perceived stress, but no gold standards are available. Although self-monitoring is a core element of self-management and behavior change, the success of mHealth behavioral tools depends on their validity and reliability, which lack evidence. African American and Latina mothers in the United States are high-priority populations for apps that can be used for self-monitoring of diet, physical activity, and stress because the body mass index (BMI) of mothers typically increases for several years after childbirth and the risks of obesity and its’ sequelae diseases are elevated among minority populations. Objective To examine the intermethod reliability and concurrent validity of smartphone-based self-monitoring via ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) and use of daily diaries for diet, stress, and physical activity compared with brief recall measures, anthropometric biomeasures, and bloodspot biomarkers. Methods A purposive sample (n=42) of primarily African American (16/42, 39%) and Latina (18/42, 44%) mothers was assigned Android smartphones for using Ohmage apps to self-monitor diet, perceived stress, and physical activity over 6 months. Participants were assessed at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Recall measures included brief food frequency screeners, physical activity assessments adapted from the National Health and Nutrition Examination more » Survey, and the nine-item psychological stress measure. Anthropometric biomeasures included BMI, body fat, waist circumference, and blood pressure. Bloodspot assays for Epstein–Barr virus and C-reactive protein were used as systemic load and stress biomarkers. EMAs and daily diary questions assessed perceived quality and quantity of meals, perceived stress levels, and moderate, vigorous, and light physical activity. Units of analysis were follow-up assessments (n=29 to n=45 depending on the domain) of the participants (n=29 with sufficient data for analyses). Correlations, R2 statistics, and multivariate linear regressions were used to assess the strength of associations between variables. Results Almost all participants (39/42, 93%) completed the study. Intermethod reliability between smartphone-based EMAs and diary reports and their corresponding recall reports was highest for stress and diet; correlations ranged from .27 to .52 (P<.05). However, it was unexpectedly low for physical activity; no significant associations were observed. Concurrent validity was demonstrated for diet EMAs and diary reports on systolic blood pressure (r=−.32), C-reactive protein level (r=−.34), and moderate and vigorous physical activity recalls (r=.35 to.48), suggesting a covariation between healthy diet and physical activity behaviors. EMAs and diary reports on stress were not associated with Epstein–Barr virus and C-reactive protein level. Diary reports on moderate and vigorous physical activity were negatively associated with BMI and body fat (r=−.35 to −.44, P<.05). Conclusions Brief smartphone-based EMA use may be valid and reliable for long-term self-monitoring of diet, stress, and physical activity. Lack of intermethod reliability for physical activity measures is consistent with prior research, warranting more research on the efficacy of smartphone-based self-monitoring of self-management and behavior change support. « less
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JMIR mHealth and uHealth
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National Science Foundation
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