JMIR mHealth and uHealth 2018 02 156(2) e42 doi 10.2196/mhealth.8074
Long-term engagement in exercise and physical activity mitigates the progression of disability and increases quality of life in people with Parkinson disease (PD). Despite this, the vast majority of individuals with PD are sedentary. There is a critical need for a feasible, safe, acceptable, and effective method to assist those with PD to engage in active lifestyles. Peer coaching through mobile health (mHealth) may be a viable approach.
The purpose of this study was to develop a PD-specific peer coach training program and a remote peer-mentored walking program using mHealth technology with the goal of increasing physical activity in persons with PD. We set out to examine the feasibility, safety, and acceptability of the programs along with preliminary evidence of individual-level changes in walking activity, self-efficacy, and disability in the peer mentees.
A peer coach training program and a remote peer-mentored walking program using mHealth was developed and tested in 10 individuals with PD. We matched physically active persons with PD (peer coaches) with sedentary persons with PD (peer mentees), resulting in 5 dyads. Using both Web-based and in-person delivery methods, we trained the peer coaches in basic knowledge of PD, exercise, active listening, and motivational interviewing. Peer coaches and mentees wore FitBit Zip activity trackers and participated in daily walking over 8 weeks. Peer dyads interacted daily via the FitBit friends mobile app and weekly via telephone calls. Feasibility was determined by examining recruitment, participation, and retention rates. Safety was assessed by monitoring adverse events during the study period. Acceptability was assessed via satisfaction surveys. Individual-level changes in physical activity were examined relative to clinically important differences.
Four out of the 5 peer pairs used the FitBit activity tracker and friends function without difficulty. A total of 4 of the 5 pairs completed the 8 weekly phone conversations. There were no adverse events over the course of the study. All peer coaches were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the training program, and all participants were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the peer-mentored walking program. All participants would recommend this program to others with PD. Increases in average steps per day exceeding the clinically important difference occurred in 4 out of the 5 mentees.
Remote peer coaching using mHealth is feasible, safe, and acceptable for persons with PD. Peer coaching using mHealth technology may be a viable method to increase physical activity in individuals with PD. Larger controlled trials are necessary to examine the effectiveness of this approach.