Automated wearable cameras for improving recall of diet and time use in Uganda: a cross-sectional feasibility study

Nutr J. 2023 Jan 12;22(1):7. doi: 10.1186/s12937-022-00828-3.


Background: Traditional recall approaches of data collection for assessing dietary intake and time use are prone to recall bias. Studies in high- and middle-income countries show that automated wearable cameras are a promising method for collecting objective health behavior data and may improve study participants' recall of foods consumed and daily activities performed. This study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of using automated wearable cameras in rural Eastern Ugandan to collect dietary and time use data.

Methods: Mothers of young children (n = 211) wore an automated wearable camera on 2 non-consecutive days while continuing their usual activities. The day after wearing the camera, participants' dietary diversity and time use was assessed using an image-assisted recall. Their experiences of the method were assessed via a questionnaire.

Results: Most study participants reported their experiences with the automated wearable camera and image-assisted recall to be good (36%) or very good (56%) and would participate in a similar study in the future (97%). None of the eight study withdrawals could be definitively attributed to the camera. Fifteen percent of data was lost due to device malfunction, and twelve percent of the images were "uncodable" due to insufficient lighting. Processing and analyzing the images were labor-intensive, time-consuming, and prone to human error. Half (53%) of participants had difficulty interpreting the images captured by the camera.

Conclusions: Using an automated wearable camera in rural Eastern Uganda was feasible, although improvements are needed to overcome the challenges common to rural, low-income country contexts and reduce the burdens posed on both participants and researchers. To improve the quality of data obtained, future automated wearable camera-based image assisted recall studies should use a structured data format to reduce image coding time; electronically code the data in the field, as an output of the image review process, to eliminate ex post facto data entry; and, ideally, use computer-assisted personal interviews software to ensure completion and reduce errors. In-depth formative work in partnership with key local stakeholders (e.g., researchers from low-income countries, representatives from government and/or other institutional review boards, and community representatives and local leaders) is also needed to identify practical approaches to ensuring that the ethical rights of automated wearable camera study participants in low-income countries are adequately protected.

Keywords: Acceptability; Dietary assessment; Feasibility; Time use; Uganda; Wearable cameras.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Uganda
  • Wearable Electronic Devices*