Use of a smartphone-based mobile app for weight management in obese minority stroke survivors: Pilot randomized controlled trial with open blinded end point

Nneka L. Ifejika, Minal Bhadane, Chunyan C. Cai, Elizabeth A. Noser, James C. Grotta, Sean I. Savitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Minorities have an increased incidence of early-onset, obesity-related cerebrovascular disease. Unfortunately, effective weight management in this vulnerable population has significant barriers. Objective: Our objective was to determine the feasibility and preliminary treatment effects of a smartphone-based weight loss intervention versus food journals to monitor dietary patterns in minority stroke patients. Methods: Swipe out Stroke was a pilot prospective randomized controlled trial with open blinded end point. Minority stroke patients and their caregivers were screened for participation using cluster enrollment. We used adaptive randomization for assignment to a behavior intervention with (1) smartphone-based self-monitoring or (2) food journal self-monitoring. The smartphone group used Lose it! to record meals and communicate with us. Reminder messages (first 30 days), weekly summaries plus reminder messages on missed days (days 31-90), and weekly summaries only (days 91-180) were sent via push notifications. The food journal group used paper diaries. Both groups received 4 in-person visits (baseline and 30, 90, and 180 days), culturally competent counseling, and educational materials. The primary outcome was reduced total body weight. Results: We enrolled 36 stroke patients (n=23, 64% African American; n=13, 36% Hispanic), 17 in the smartphone group, and 19 in the food journal group. Mean age was 54 (SD 9) years; mean body mass index was 35.7 (SD 5.7) kg/m2; education, employment status, and family history of stroke or obesity did not differ between the groups. Baseline rates of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9 [PHQ-9] score median 5.5, IQR 3.0-9.5), cognitive impairment (Montreal Cognitive Assessment score median 23.5, IQR 21-26), and inability to ambulate (5/36, 14% with modified Rankin Scale score 3) were similar. In total, 25 (69%) stroke survivors completed Swipe out Stroke (13/17 in the smartphone group, 12/19 in the food journal group); 1 participant in the smartphone group died. Median weight change at 180 days was 5.7 lb (IQR –2.4 to 8.0) in the smartphone group versus 6.4 lb (IQR –2.2 to 12.5; P=.77) in the food journal group. Depression was significantly lower at 30 days in the smartphone group than in the food journal group (PHQ-9 score 2 vs 8; P=.03). Clinically relevant depression rates remained in the zero to minimal range for the smartphone group compared with mild to moderate range in the food journal group at day 90 (PHQ-9 score 3.5 vs 4.5; P=.39) and day 180 (PHQ-9 score 3 vs 6; P=.12). Conclusions: In a population of obese minority stroke survivors, the use of a smartphone did not lead to a significant difference in weight change compared with keeping a food journal. The presence of baseline depression (19/36, 53%) was a confounding variable, which improved with app engagement. Future studies that include treatment of poststroke depression may positively influence intervention efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere17816
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Minority groups
  • Obesity
  • Outcome assessment, health care
  • Smartphone
  • Stroke
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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