A Review on Strategies for Data Collection, Reflection, and Communication in Eating Disorder Apps

Proc SIGCHI Conf Hum Factor Comput Syst. 2021 May:2021:547. doi: 10.1145/3411764.3445670. Epub 2021 May 7.


Eating disorders (EDs) constitute a mental illness with the highest mortality. Today, mobile health apps provide promising means to ED patients for managing their condition. Apps enable users to monitor their eating habits, thoughts, and feelings, and offer analytic insights for behavior change. However, not only have scholars critiqued the clinical validity of these apps, their underlying design principles are not well understood. Through a review of 34 ED apps, we uncovered 11 different data types ED apps collect, and 9 strategies they employ to support collection and reflection. Drawing upon personal health informatics and visualization frameworks, we found that most apps did not adhere to best practices on what and how data should be collected from and reflected to users, or how data-driven insights should be communicated. Our review offers suggestions for improving the design of ED apps such that they can be useful and meaningful in ED recovery.

Keywords: apps; eating disorder; reflection; self-tracking.