Catherine from the Tracking Ourselves? project is also involved in the Cost of Living website, which published short pieces that focus broadly on the politics, economics and sociology of health and health care. Below is some of a piece she and Kate Weiner, also in the team, wrote for Cost of Living on technology for self-monitoring. You can read the whole piece here.
Health and fitness tracking is all the rage. You want to keep track of your weight or count calories? There are apps for that. The NHS even offers an app ‘to track the whole family’s BMI over time.’ Through using these personal digital devices we can all learn to monitor our behavior. This in turn can motivate us to make and maintain changes to prevent disease, and improving our health by sharing data with friends (see the recent BBC documentary, Monitor Me).
In some ways this narrative is persuasive. Personal computing has changed the way we live and work, and the spread of smart phones has been rapid. People now hold enormous analytic power in their hands many times a day. But we have some doubts about the extent to which people are happy to monitor themselves in this way.
We’ve been researching consumers of the cholesterol lowering drugs, statins, and of so-called functional foods that contain plant sterols, like Benecol and Flora proactiv, for a few years now. Respondents in our research were from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Their views suggest a strong reluctance to engage in the kinds of activity that are involved in digital health tracking.