December 30, 2016

RTC:Rural “Health My Way” App being designed to increase health and wellness for people in rural communities

App icon for RTC:Rural's "Health My Way" app, which is currently under development

App icon for RTC:Rural’s “Health My Way” app, which is currently under development

One of RTC:Rural’s current projects aims to develop and test a new health-related app called “Health My Way.”

The app is being produced as part of the Ecological Decision Support for Health Promotion project led by project manager Tannis Hargrove, M.S.  The app provides a solution for individuals who live in rural areas and are unable to participate in group workshops on healthy living due to limited transportation or lack of other resources.

The idea and content for the app came from two of RTC:Rural’s previous projects. The first, Living Well With a Disability (LWD), is a health-promotion program that helps participants set and reach quality-of-life goals by developing a healthy lifestyle. The LWD program especially aims to help participants manage secondary health conditions. LWD is a 10- to 12-week program facilitated by a trained workshop facilitator who leads weekly meetings for the group.

The second project, Consumer Self-Managed Use of Rural Healthcare Services (CASM), helped participants connect to available healthcare services in their communities. CASM used some of the goal-setting and health-management content from the LWD program and addressed how to overcome specific barriers to using those resources.

“Health My Way” was developed to provide an alternative for those individuals who could not participate in the LWD program due to logistical or personal challenges.  This tool is especially important for those living in rural communities where the cost and accessibility of transportation can be substantial barriers to participation. The app is meant to be completed one-on-one with a staff member from a local Center for Independent Living, which involves more flexibility in location and time than is afforded by the LWD group meetings.

Screenshot of nutrition menu section of "Health My Way" app, which is currently under development

Screenshot of nutrition menu section of “Health My Way” app, which is currently under development

The app also provides more flexibility in the content of the lessons. Instead of requiring participants to follow a set course of weekly lessons, the app allows users to decide which topic they would like to begin with, and from there choose which topic to cover next. This lets participants move at their own pace through the program, and take an active role in deciding which topics are most relevant to their current lives and life goals.

Hargrove says the app, which is in what she calls “pre-beta form,” is being designed to include different layout options, which allows the developers to get feedback from a test group about which layout is more intuitive. Another challenge is trying to develop an app for such a wide audience. Ideally, the target age group is everyone with a disability from 18 to 65 years old, which encompasses a wide range of abilities and interests. Younger users have different experience with and expectations of technology, while for older users simply learning to use the technology may be a substantial barrier.

While further development is planned, the app is making good progress. “Wow, we’ve really done a lot,” Hargove says as she looks back over the work accomplished so far. It’s been a long process, and far more complicated than she had imagined, but she’s excited to see that the idea is feasible and that the app is taking shape.

Stay tuned to our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed for more updates on this and other RTC:Rural projects.