Gamification and social incentives to improve glycemic control among obese diabetic adults

Opportunity

Nearly 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. Obesity and physical inactivity contribute to poor glycemic control. While social networks have been demonstrated to influence these types of health behaviors, the best way to design social incentives to promote weight loss and physical activity is unknown.

Approach

We designed a weight loss and physical activity program using gamification to enhance social incentives. We are currently enrolling approximately 360 adult Type 2 diabetics who are obese and have high HbA1cs in a 1-year clinical trial.  Participants will receive a wearable device and wireless weight scale and be randomly assigned to a control group or one of three gamification interventions designed to enhance supportive, competitive, or collaborative social incentives.

Impact

In this clinical trial, we found that gamification lead to significant increases in physical activity that were sustained for one-year when it was designed to enhance competition or support, but not collaboration. There were no significant changes in weight or hemoglobin A1c for any of the interventions relative to control.

Funding

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.