Onnikka mobile application is an effective aid in the treatment of obesity
Onnikka is based on the Persuasive Systems Design method developed at the University of Oulu under the leadership of Professor Harri Oinas-Kukkonen, with a focus on guiding behaviour change. Onnikka has now been developed into a mobile application, and according to the results of a recent trial, it is an effective tool for self-management of obesity.
The trial investigated whether a mobile phone app could help in weight loss when used alone, without additional support measures. A total of 200 participants with a body mass index (BMI) of 30–40 kg/m² took part in the study. The trial compared those who used the mobile Onnikka app with a control group. The control group also received access to the app, but only six months after the start of the study.
The results of the trial demonstrate that the weight of those using the mobile Onnikka app decreased significantly over six months (-2.5%), while the control group experienced a slight weight increase (0.2%). The positive effect of the mobile Onnikka app persisted even after 12 months in the mobile Onnikka group (-2.1%).
Participants in the study showed exceptional commitment to using the app, as they were very active users of the app during the intervention and nearly 90% of them were still participating in the trial a year later. Typically, most users of lifestyle apps discontinue usage shortly after starting.
The results indicate that mobile Onnikka effectively supports weight loss, and the positive impact lasts for at least a year. "Mobile Onnikka could be at least a partial solution to the growing obesity epidemic," says Professor Janne Hukkanen, who led the clinical trial.
Participants in the study received no other treatment for their obesity besides mobile Onnikka. “This shows that the app is a resource-efficient option for large patient groups. Our study stands out qualitatively with its large number of participants and long follow-up period,” notes Hukkanen.
The recent study was conducted as part of the R2B (Research to Business) project in collaboration with Business Finland. During this project, a mobile version of the Onnikka weight management program was developed. At the conclusion of the study, the Onnikka Health company was established to commercialize the mobile Onnikka app and make it widely available to healthcare organizations.
Healthcare providers can offer Onnikka to their patients. Pilots have been launched, including in the Central Finland wellbeing services county, as well as in Vantaa and Kerava.
In Finland, there are approximately 1.2 million individuals with obesity. “Digital treatment for obesity is a viable self-care option, and we have now demonstrated its effectiveness when the digital treatment is based on research," says Professor Markku Savolainen, an emeritus professor at the University of Oulu and one of the main developers of the Onnikka weight management program.
The study was published in the prestigious International Journal of Obesity. In addition to Business Finland, the research was supported by the Suorsa Health Care Foundation, the Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
Article: Markkanen, J.O., Oikarinen, N., Savolainen, M.J. et al. Mobile health behaviour change support system as independent treatment tool for obesity: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Obes (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-023-01426-x
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