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UMass Medical School and WPI Share $2 Million NIH Grant to Develop Stress Eating App
UMass Medical School and WPI Share $2 Million NIH Grant
to Develop Stress Eating App
The smartphone application will help patients struggling
with obesity and emotional eating
February 2, 2015
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Targeting the intersection of stress and overeating, an interdisciplinary
research team at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) and
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has received a $2 million award from
the National Institutes of Health to create an interactive smartphone
application to help patients struggling with obesity and emotional eating.
Development of the "RELAX" application and a pilot clinical study to
evaluate its effectiveness will be led by Sherry Pagoto, PhD, associate
professor of medicine at UMMS, and Bengisu Tulu, PhD, associate professor
in the WPI Foisie School of Business, joint principal investigators for
"Most commercial apps available today focus on tracking diet and exercise,
but do not help the user understand why they are eating so much and/or
exercising so little," Dr. Pagoto said. "Our clinical and research
experience suggests that stress is a very common trigger for overeating
and it is a barrier to exercise."
RELAX will have two components: a mobile application that will enable
patients to track their daily activities using a smartphone and a
web-based tool clinicians can use to access patient information to help
"We want to use technology to help patients in real time, during their
daily activities, and also to enhance the effectiveness of the time they
spend face-to-face with their physician or counselor," Dr. Tulu said.
Using text inputs, barcode scanning, and GPS technology, the RELAX patient
app will track eating patterns, daily activities, exercise, patient-mood,
and stress inducing events. The app will provide the patient with an
itemized list of foods consumed, indicate the times of day identified as
high-stress moments, and illustrate the relationship between food intake
and stress. The information collected will help the user to better
understand his or her habits when it comes to emotional or stress eating.
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