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Obesity, predicting the future & Professor Jiwa’s app

News story

Ever wondered what you would look like in the future? Professor Moyez Jiwa’s Future Me app may soon be your answer.

Dr Moyez Jiwa
Dr Moyez Jiwa

The app allows you to predict what you’ll look like in the near future based on what you eat and what exercise you do. By December, Professor Jiwa hopes to have defined the avatars further by developing ones for all age groups and making the changes even more realistic. In February 2014 he hopes to start the full randomised, controlled trials.

The app takes a photo of your face and superimposes it on an avatar that you customise to your body shape, height and weight. Once you enter how many calories you’ll eat and how much exercise you plan to have in a day, the app calculates what you’ll look like in either three, six or twelve months’ time.

Professor Jiwa’s interest in using technology with healthcare started when he noticed how many of his patients would use it to help them manage their own health. His first project used the April Age internet-based software to predict what smokers would look like as they got older.

“You want to prevent lung cancer but you see most patients only when the symptoms are obvious or they are diagnosed,” he explained. “So I wanted to develop something that would help them quit.”

Obesity was the next problem he wanted to tackle, quoting figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey in 2007 that indicated 61.1 per cent of Australians were either obese or overweight, and data from a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association stating that 64.5 per cent of all American adults were overweight and 30.5 per cent were obese in 2000.

His first attempt at developing the obesity app failed. “You can’t predict how the face will change with weight loss,” he said. “But then my wife suggested using an entire avatar.”

It took a contract designer, who develops apps for the gaming industry, three months to create a prototype where changes could be seen in the entire avatar using body mass index (BMI) data.

Professor Jiwa thinks allowing people to visualise the consequences of their lifestyle choices will help motivate them to change their behaviour.

“Once you visualise what you want, you are halfway there,” he said.

In the future, he plans to tackle the smoking issue again from another angle, this time by partnering with Edith Cowan University to create cigarette packs that play a recording of a loved one asking them not to smoke every time they open the pack.

“It’s for those who are motivated to quit and are already using patches but want something else as well,” he explained.

“I have been at Curtin for a few years and I enjoy innovating to improve outcomes in healthcare.”

Further information:

Australian obesity data: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008, National Health Survey

Summary of obesity data on Australian Institute of Health & Welfare
US obesity data: K. Flegal et al, 2002, Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2000, JAMA, 288 (14): 1723-1727

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