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Diabetes Technology and Solution-Focused Practice: Applied to Mobile Apps

“You`re only as weak as you let yourself become, and you`re only as strong as you allow yourself to be.”

Daniel Hansen

Beautiful bougainvillea, Palm Desert, CA

In this week’s installment of Diabetes Technology and Solution-Focused Practice we’re discussing mobile apps. In our last blog we focused on using a solution-focused approach to interpreting and discussing continuous glucose monitor (CGM) data. This week’s blog we’ll focus on a new discovery for us – the WW mobile app. We will share insights on other apps in future blogs. We believe that using solution-focused language within mobile applications can improve user engagement with the app, as well as encourage individuals to make progress towards their health behavior goals.

WW App: Deb’s experience…

As you may know, Weight Watchers is now known as WW. I have been using their app, the WW app, to help  stay on track during the COVID-19 lockdown. You can learn about the different WW programs and pricing here. There are several options to choose from, I only use the app for logging and motivation.  I was encouraged to continue using the app because of the nature of the messaging. Then I began to wonder if they were incorporating a solution-focused approach? 

From a weekly in-App push a few weeks ago, the headline was “Why you should do what works: You might already have more tools in your toolbox than you think.” If that doesn’t sound like solution-focused messaging, I’m not sure what does! The post reminds us that people typically focus on what isn’t working well and how to deal with challenges. Of course, that is not motivating, and not helpful when trying to make hard health behavior changes.

But, what if you “Flip the switch” so to speak? (See our many blog posts from 2019 about “Flipping the paradigm” –  here’s one on healthy eating, and here’s one on healthy coping). The WW message goes on to encourage focusing on the things that come naturally and leverage strengths or what’s worked in the past! Wow! We’ve written about strengths in this blog multiple times (you can read about strengths here), and so believe in focusing on what one does well,  building confidence, and increasing happiness by doing so. 

Make Strengths your Secret Weapon. According to WW, leveraging your strengths will help you be successful. They suggest asking 3 questions to uncover strengths:

  1. When do I feel like my best self?
  2. What makes me unique?
  3. What comes most naturally to me?

Those are questions that diabetes care and education specialists (DCES) can easily incorporate into diabetes-related conversations with clients as well. Once those questions are answered, WW suggests creating an “affirmation” to help remember to focus on personal strengths. You can read their post here. One exercise that helps people think through writing their own affirmation includes showing a word cloud to help direct thinking about potential ideas of strengths (including humor, cleverness, bravery, creative etc.). What a powerful visual tool, that would be so easy to employ in any diabetes care and education program! Finally they suggest saying the affirmation out loud every morning or posting on your computer so it will be visible every day. For instance, “I am strong.” “I am resilient.” You get the idea

I loved this way of thinking about making healthy choices, and reading and engaging with the content. I created my own affirmation and have it posted on my computer with a sticky note so I  glance at it multiple times during the day! Tami has affirmations on her desk and in the kitchen that she sees when making coffee in the morning to start the day off.

Helping clients create their own affirmation using solution-focused principles is a great opportunity to highlight what is working well already and focusing on their strengths, as well as supporting the development of resilience. 

Do you recommend mobile apps to your clients? 

If you have a client interested in weight loss or adopting healthy eating habits, the WW mobile app might be a good option. (We are not endorsed by WW and do not receive any compensation from WW). Knowing the positive strength-based language that is being used is so encouraging. Also of note, WW recently hired Adam Kauffman, formerly of Canary Health,  to head their diabetes program (read the press release here) so we’re excited to see what’s to come in the future.

We plan to continue to write about a variety of other technologies that impact and influence diabetes care and education including diabetes apps, digital health tools, diabetes devices, online peer support and online coaching. Stop back by in 2 weeks to see what’s up next!

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If you are a health care professional and interested in learning more about our solution-focused practice and approach, when you subscribe to our blog, we’ll send you in return a FREE resource of 10 Solution-Focused Questions to start a solution-focused discussion with your clients. 

Deb is employed by Dexcom but her words and opinions in this blog are her own. Tami is employed by the University of Kentucky Barnstable Brown DIabetes Center, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.