Person-Specific Dose-Finding for a Digital Messaging Intervention to Promote Physical Activity

Sarah Hojjatinia, Sahar Hojjatinia, Constantino M. Lagoa, Deborah Brunke-Reese, David E. Conroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Digital messaging is an established method for promoting physical activity. Systematic approaches for dose-finding have not been widely used in behavioral intervention development. We apply system identification tools from control systems engineering to estimate dynamical models and inform decision rules for digital messaging intervention to promote physical activity. Method: Insufficiently active emerging and young adults (n = 45) wore an activity monitor that recorded minutelevel step counts and heart rate and received 0–6 digital messages daily on their smartphone for 6 months. Messages were drawn from 3 content libraries (move more, sit less, inspirational quotes). Location recordings via location services in the user’s smartphone were used to lookup weather indices at the time and place of message delivery. Following system identification, responses to each message type were simulated under different conditions. Response features were extracted to summarize dynamic processes. Results: A generic model based on composite data was conservative and did not capture the heterogeneous responses evident in person-specific models. No messages were uniformly ineffective but responses to specific message content in different contexts varied between people. Exterior temperature at the time of message receipt moderated the size of some message effects. Conclusions: A generic model of message effects on physical activity can provide the initial evidence for context-sensitive decision rules in a just-in-time adaptive intervention, but it is likely to be error-prone and inefficient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-512
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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