Health behaviour change programs that utilise IT-based delivery have great potential to improve health. Whilst more static Web 1.0 technologies have been somewhat effective, they often failed to promote longer-term user engagement required for greater health promotion impact. With Web 2.0 technologies, however, there is potential for greater engagement and retention, through allowing individuals to determine how information is generated, modified, and shared collaboratively.
The WALK 2.0 study utilised a Web 2.0-based platform to engage participants in health behaviour change aimed at increasing physical activity levels. The program included two trials: (1) a three-arm randomised controlled trial (RCT) that compared the effectiveness of Web 2.0, Web 1.0, and paper-based logbook interventions; and (2) a real-world randomised ecological trial (RET) that compared a Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 intervention. The aim of this paper is not to focus on the research trial results per se, but rather the success factors and challenges in both the RCT and RET.
Both the RCT and RET demonstrated successful outcomes, with greater improvements in physical activity for the Web 2.0 groups. A range of challenges, however, were identified in designing, implementing, and evaluating such interventions. These include IT-based intervention development within a research context, the ability to establish a self-sustaining online community, the rapid pace of change in web-based technology and implications for trial design, the selection of best outcome measures for ecological trials, and managing engagement, non-usage and study attrition in real-world trials.
Future research and developments in this area must look to broader research designs that allow for the ever-changing IT-user landscape and behaviour, and greater reliance on development and testing in real-world settings.