FOEDRC member Philip Polgreen Receives a New NIH Grant to study an innovative way to increase physical activity in persons at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes

Dr. Philip Polgreen was recently awarded a new grant from the National Institutes of the Health. The grant, which will be funded by the National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), is an R21 entitled: An m-health intervention to increase activity among patients at risk for type 2 diabetes. The total award is $418,000 over two years. The proposal, which represents a collaboration between Dr. Polgreen who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and Dr. Alberto Segre a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Iowa represents the culmination of studies that were initiated with support by a pilot and feasibility awards from the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center (FOEDRC).

Summary of the proposed work
A sedentary lifestyle is not only a risk factor for type two diabetes (T2D), but it can also exacerbate the disease. Recommending increased physical activity is therefore a cornerstone of T2D prevention and management. Historically, increasing activity was synonymous with exercise; however, even much more modest activity levels (e.g. simply walking) or merely decreasing the proportion of sedentary time may be sufficient to improve health outcomes. Some interventions designed to increase activity have shown promise; others have been less successful. The availability of inexpensive pedometers, and more recently, low-cost triaxial accelerometers, has now made it much easier to monitor activity levels and provide feedback to users. These devices are ideal for capturing activity associated with walking, the most popular and acceptable form of exercise for patients with T2D, but only if patients actually wear them. Thus, there is a need to develop pragmatic approaches that encourage patients to not only wear these monitoring devices, but also to motivate them to increase their activity. Because it has been difficult to generalize and maintain exercise programs for pre-T2D and T2D patients, our interdisciplinary research group created MapTrek, a mobile-phone-based walking game that allows people to take a virtual walk in any number of interesting locations around the world and track their progress against the progress of other people like themselves on an interactive map. Steps are counted using a commercially-available triaxial accelerometer (e.g., a Fitbit), and patients see their own updated progress overlaid on Google Maps, with all the usual Google Maps features (e.g., zooming, street view, etc.) available. Our objective is to alert patients at risk for or diagnosed with T2D of their activity levels in our game-based environment, thereby encouraging them, first to walk more every day and, second, to maintain these new increased levels of physical activity. Our game will also focus on motivating patients to increase their walking pace and reduce their sedentary time. This R21 will fund a pilot clinical trial to test the effectiveness of our game against the effectiveness of Fitbits alone.

Date: 
Monday, June 27, 2016