Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

Connecting Health and Technology (CHAT): protocol of a randomized controlled trial to improve nutrition behaviours using mobile devices and tailored text messaging in young adults

Deborah A Kerr1*, Christina M Pollard12, Peter Howat13, Edward J Delp4, Mark Pickering5, Katherine R Kerr1, Satvinder S Dhaliwal1, Iain S Pratt36, Janine Wright1 and Carol J Boushey78

Author Affiliations

1 Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute and the School of Public Health, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia

2 Department of Health, Perth, WA, Australia

3 Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer Control, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia

4 School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States

5 School of Engineering and Information Technology, The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, Australia

6 Cancer Council Western Australia, Shenton Park, WA, Australia

7 Epidemiology Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu, HI, United States

8 Department of Nutrition, Purdue University, West Lafayatte, IN, United States

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:477  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-477

Published: 22 June 2012



Increasing intakes of fruits and vegetables intake, in tandem with reducing consumption of energy-dense and nutrient poor foods and beverages are dietary priorities to prevent chronic disease. Although most adults do not eat enough fruit and vegetables, teenagers and young adults tend to have the lowest intakes. Young adults typically consume a diet which is inconsistent with the dietary recommendations. Yet little is known about the best approaches to improve dietary intakes and behaviours among this group. This randomised controlled trial aims to evaluate the effectiveness of using a mobile device to assess dietary intake, provide tailored dietary feedback and text messages to motivate changes in fruit, vegetable and junk food consumption among young adults.


The CHAT project will involve the development of the mobile device food record (MDFR), and evaluation of dietary feedback and implementation of a 6-month intervention in young adults aged 18 to 30 years. The participants will be randomly assigned to one of three groups (1) Intervention Group 1: MDFR + Text Messages + Dietary Feedback; (2) Intervention Group 2: MDFR + Dietary Feedback; (3) Control Group 3: MDFR, no feedback. All groups will undertake a 3-day dietary record using the MDFR but only the Intervention Groups 1 and 2 will receive tailored dietary feedback at baseline and at 6-months which will consist of assessment of serves of fruits, vegetables and junk food in comparison to dietary recommendations. Tailored nutrition text messages will be sent to Intervention Group 1 over the 6 months. Data will be collected at baseline and again at the 6-month completion.


This trial will test if applications running on mobile devices have potential to assess diet, provide tailored feedback and nutrition messages as an effective way of improving fruit and vegetable consumption and reducing energy-dense nutrient poor foods in young adults. The CHAT project will assess the impact of the intervention on behavioural intention to eat a more healthful diet. This innovative approach if successful may provide a means to deliver a low cost health promotion program that has the potential to reach large groups, particularly young adults.

Trial registration

Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12612000250831

Nutrition; Diet; Text messaging; Mobile phone; Randomised controlled trial; Tailoring