Objective: The use of computers to promote healthy behavior is increasing. To evaluate the efficacy of these computer-delivered interventions, we conducted a meta-analysis of the published literature.
Method: Studies examining health domains related to the leading health indicators outlined in Healthy People 2010 were selected. Data from 75 randomized controlled trials, published between 1988 and 2007, with 35,685 participants and 82 separate interventions were included. All studies were coded independently by two raters for study and participant characteristics, design and methodology, and intervention content. We calculated weighted mean effect sizes for theoretically-meaningful psychosocial and behavioral outcomes; moderator analyses determined the relation between study characteristics and the magnitude of effect sizes for heterogeneous outcomes.
Results: Compared with controls, participants who received a computer-delivered intervention improved several hypothesized antecedents of health behavior (knowledge, attitudes, intentions); intervention recipients also improved health behaviors (nutrition, tobacco use, substance use, safer sexual behavior, binge/purge behaviors) and general health maintenance. Several sample, study and intervention characteristics moderated the psychosocial and behavioral outcomes.
Conclusion: Computer-delivered interventions can lead to improved behavioral health outcomes at first post-intervention assessment. Interventions evaluating outcomes at extended assessment periods are needed to evaluate the longer-term efficacy of computer-delivered interventions.