Background: The just-in-time adaptive intervention (JITAI) is an intervention design aiming to provide the right type/amount of support, at the right time, by adapting to an individual's changing internal and contextual state. The availability of increasingly powerful mobile and sensing technologies underpins the use of JITAIs to support health behavior, as in such a setting an individual's state can change rapidly, unexpectedly, and in his/her natural environment.
Purpose: Despite the increasing use and appeal of JITAIs, a major gap exists between the growing technological capabilities for delivering JITAIs and research on the development and evaluation of these interventions. Many JITAIs have been developed with minimal use of empirical evidence, theory, or accepted treatment guidelines. Here, we take an essential first step towards bridging this gap.
Methods: Building on health behavior theories and the extant literature on JITAIs, we clarify the scientific motivation for JITAIs, define their fundamental components, and highlight design principles related to these components. Examples of JITAIs from various domains of health behavior research are used for illustration.
Conclusions: As we enter a new era of technological capacity for delivering JITAIs, it is critical that researchers develop sophisticated and nuanced health behavior theories capable of guiding the construction of such interventions. Particular attention has to be given to better understanding the implications of providing timely and ecologically sound support for intervention adherence and retention.