A newly-launched mobile health (mHealth) tool aims to support New Zealanders to achieve their healthy lifestyle goals.

The OL@-OR@ (‘Ola Ora’) project was created by Toi Tangata and the Healthier Lives: He

Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge research team based at the School of Population Health at University of Auckland.

Developed in partnership with Māori and Pasifika communities, OL@-OR@ consists of a smartphone app and website in two versions, tailored for each community.

Inviting friends and whānau to join them on the journey, app users can set goals and receive support with healthy eating, exercise and motivation.

Larger goals sit alongside smaller ‘footsteps,’ small achievable tasks aimed at getting users to their ultimate goals.

Toi Tangata co-design specialist for Ol@ Or@ Crystal Pekepo says the tool allows users to set goals in different ways.

“This mHealth kaupapa allows you to not only set individual goals, but also set goals as a community or whānau,” she says.

“So for example rather than one person having a goal of 10,000 steps a day, you might be a whānau of five and have a goal of 50,000 steps a day collectively.”

The tool has been developed using an innovative co-design approach, meaning the communities it’s designed to serve have been involved right through the design process, by way of focus groups, hui and fono to direct the content.

The programme’s effectiveness will be evaluated using a cluster randomised trial. Clusters will be identified by Māori and Pasifika community coordinators and will be randomly assigned to either the mHealth tool (intervention condition) or a simplified version of the tool which only collects data (control condition).

Participants in the intervention clusters will use the tool for 12 weeks and participants in control clusters will be able to use the tool after the 12-week intervention period.

Toi Tangata is a Māori public health agency which focuses on developing and delivering positive health initiatives to accelerate health outcomes for Māori.

CEO Megan Tunks says the tool has huge potential for Māori communities who want to connect and share their hauora journey with friends and whānau.

“There is a vast amount of research that has found that simply by tracking our health – using a fitness tracker, for example – we’re more likely to achieve health goals such as getting fitter or increasing physical activity time,” she says.

The next step for the OL@-OR@ project is a large scale trial to test the effectiveness of the tool, which is proposed to start early next year and involve nearly 2,000 people.

A positive result could see a wider release of the app.

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