- 1Liver Unit, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
- 2Newcastle NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
- 3Translational and Clinical Research Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
- 4Centre for Rehabilitation, School of Health & Life Sciences, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom.
Background: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is linked to excessive calorie consumption, physical inactivity, and being overweight. Patients with NAFLD can halt or decelerate progression and potentially reverse their condition by changing their lifestyle behavior. International guidelines recommend the use of lifestyle interventions; however, there remains a discordance between published guidelines and clinical practice. This is primarily due to a lack of NAFLD-specific interventions to support weight loss and improve liver function.
Objective: This study aims to use intervention mapping to systematically develop a digital intervention to support patients with NAFLD to initiate and maintain changes in their dietary and physical activity behavior to promote weight loss.
Methods: Intervention mapping consisted of 6 steps: step 1 involved a needs assessment with primary and secondary health care professionals (HCPs) and patients with NAFLD; step 2 involved identification of the social cognitive determinants of change and behavioral outcomes of the intervention; step 3 involved linking social cognitive determinants of behavioral outcomes with behavior change techniques to effectively target dietary and physical activity behavior; step 4 involved the development of a prototype digital intervention that integrated the strategies from step 3, and the information content was identified as important for improving knowledge and skills from steps 1 and 2; step 5 involved the development of an implementation plan with a digital provider of lifestyle behavior change programs to patients with NAFLD using their delivery platform and lifestyle coaches; and step 6 involved piloting the digital intervention with patients to obtain data on access, usability, and content.
Results: A digital intervention was developed, consisting of 8 modules; self-regulatory tools; and provision of telephone support by trained lifestyle coaches to help facilitate behavioral intention, enactment, and maintenance. A commercial provider of digital lifestyle behavior change programs enrolled 16 patients with NAFLD to the prototype intervention for 12 consecutive weeks. A total of 11 of the 16 participants successfully accessed the intervention and continued to engage with the content following initial log-in (on average 4 times over the piloting period). The most frequently accessed modules were welcome to the program, understanding NAFLD, and food and NAFLD. Goal setting and self-monitoring tools were accessed on 22 occasions (4 times per tool on average). A total of 3 out of 11 participants requested access to a lifestyle coach.
Conclusions: Intervention mapping provided a systematic methodological framework to guide a theory- and evidence-informed co-design intervention development process for patients and HCPs. The digital intervention with remote support by a lifestyle coach was acceptable to patients with NAFLD and feasible to deliver. Issues with initial access, optimization of information content, and promoting the value of remote lifestyle coach support require further development ahead of future research to establish intervention effectiveness.