Online health behavior and disease management programs: Are we ready for them? Are they ready for us?

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Advancing the science and practice of health promotion and disease management on the Internet requires a systematic program of research examining the population impact of such programs. With impact described as the combination of effectiveness and participation, such research needs to include the examination of the quality and effectiveness of programs that are available to the general public, as well as descriptive and predictive knowledge about population readiness to participate in such programs. There have been few studies examining the quality of interactive health behavior change (HBC) programs on the Internet, and even fewer investigations of the effectiveness of such programs. Based on the review of over 300 HBC programs on the Internet using the "5 A's" of Health Behavior Change on the Internet (HBC-I Screener), which represent standard minimum guidelines for evaluation, it appears HBC on the Internet is in the early stages of development. As health behavior change on the Internet matures from the provision of health information to meeting the requirements necessary to produce health behavior change, and as program developers take advantage of the interactive nature of the Internet, the basic screening and expanded evaluation criteria developed in this project will provide templates for both consumers and developers of programs. The second component necessary for evaluating the impact of HBC on the Internet is the extent to which the population is ready to participate in such programs. We need to move beyond a narrow focus on early adopters and produce a population perspective that includes those not ready, those getting ready, and those ready to use such programs, as well as those already participating. By understanding participation levels of such programs, and what drives this participation, the development and dissemination of practical tailored and targeted interventions can help maximize population participation in Internet programs for health behavior change.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Medical Internet Research