E-Health and Psychology: Self-Regulation to Help Software Design

E-Health and Psychology: Self-Regulation to Help Software Design

Francisco Miranda Rodrigues (Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal), Telmo Mourinho Baptista (Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal) and Maged N. Kamel Boulos (University of the Highlands and Islands, UK)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9978-6.ch042

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The promotion of healthy habits during adolescence to better protect the young ones from a range of health risks is critical for countries’ health, their social cohesion and for the prevention of health problems in adulthood. Behavior linked diseases such as obesity are a recurrent concern, and are becoming increasingly common among the youngest (WHO, 2012). Other examples are diabetes and tobacco consumption. Globally, the proportion of years of life lost (YLL) resulting from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has increased from 38% in 2000 to 47% in 2012, and among the leading causes of YLL, ischaemic heart disease and stroke were two of the three top causes behind YLL increase between 2000 and 2012 (WHO, 2014a)(WHO, 2014b).As the authors see it, behavioral change in health is a central element in preventative health policies, a vision supported by European authorities (WHO, 2008).

In a joint Declaration, UN Major Groups & Stakeholders from civil society (65th Annual DPI/NGO Conference Outcome Document Declaration, 2014) stated that physical and mental health and psychosocial well-being are essential for all people and they support the notion that these are interlinked with ensuring quality education, ending poverty and other goals (Outcome Document .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 2014).

The use of behavioral change techniques and the development of protection skills such as decision making, a healthy self-esteem and peer pressure resistance serve as mental health promoters in teenagers, as stated in the Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 (WHO, 2013).

Promotion and prevention are key actions that the international community has agreed upon (WHO, 1986). Psychological interventions can change behaviors, and behaviors are core to several health problems. They can be used to: influence biological change that occurs after emotional response to behavior pattern; change risky behaviors or promote protective behaviors; and work on behaviors in the presence of a disease in areas such as adherence, monitoring, surveillance or even helping in the decision to take care (Baum & Posluszny, 1999).

Politicians and managers usually see patients’ decisions and their underlying habits, as rational and logical, but they usually are not (Rice, 2013). Taking this into account we need to develop strategies based on the knowledge of how people behave, think and feel - areas that are at the center of psychology studies and concerns.

The above-mentioned Mental Health Action Plan calls for the promotion of self-care through electronic and mobile technologies in health. Mobile apps and Internet-enabled mobile devices are starting to change health care delivery. Because of this, governance software application developers and providers must consider smartphones as a key target (Kickbusch & Gleicher, 2014).

Internet and smartphones (mobile phones in general) users are growing fast. The number of mobile phone users was 4.08 billion in 2012, corresponding to 58,2% of the world population. In 2013, the number was already 4.33 billion, or 61,1% of the world population. The number of smartphone (computer phones such as Android smartphones) users is also huge; in 2013, they were 1.43 billion, or 20,2% of world population and 33% of total mobile phone users. 1.91 billion access the Internet with their mobile phone, corresponding to 44,1% of mobile phone users (EMarketer, 2014). The number of fixed Internet broadband subscribers in 2013 was 4.61 billion (World Bank, 2014). That is why this has become an accessible worldwide mode of healthcare services delivery. Smartphones are user-friendly devices, multifunction and always with us and online (‘always on’) (Kamel Boulos, Wheeler, Tavares, & Jones, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Integrated Regulation: A form of extrinsic motivation where identified strategies are congruent with the person own values and needs.

Self-Regulation: A process where the person is an active decision maker developing strategies to achieve goals, while managing emotional responses using cognitive and behavioral strategies.

Gamification: The use of game elements in non-game contexts in order to engage and/or create, maintain and change behaviors.

Behavioral Strategies: Strategies with the goal of either increasing or decreasing targeted behaviors like fading, prompting, shading or cuing.

Nudge: Any aspect of choice architecture that can promote some behavior without forbidding others.

System-Caring: The health system where the user has a passive role and takes no responsibility for the outcome of his health. The health system is the center of healthcare initiative instead of the patient.

Self-Caring: Any health system where the user is active in terms of taking the responsibility for behaviors that could promote well-being or avoid harm.

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