Can customized health advice delivered in the digital space contribute to positive changes in behavior, health markers, and outcomes for people? In the third quarter of 2010, The Monday Campaigns and Johns Hopkins University contracted Moonfarmer to produce a web app as part of a national study for the Bloomburg School of Public Health that sought to answer that question.
As part scientific study, part custom web application, this project presented us with some unique challenges. Users were asked to complete detailed surveys on their personal health histories and interests before, during, and after the study, which was to take place over a full year. Survey data had to be anonymized and secured to ensure the privacy of participants.
On the web application side, we were tasked with custom-building a content management system that allowed staff to produce a large volume of health tips. We then had to anonymously set each user to receive certain categories of tips based on their survey input. All email and website content was to be published to these users on an automated schedule and each user group would be activated at a different time, requiring sophisticated staggering of content. Thus, our core challenge was to provide a consistent user experience to ensure the integrity of the study across multiple users and time frames.
Our web application was built from the ground up on Ruby on Rails, with a completely custom CMS that allowed our client to manage and schedule hundreds of unique health tips. Other features of this custom admin included an analytics dashboard for tracking site activity and role-based user management for both staff and constituents.
After much research, we deployed our health questionnaires by leveraging a robust and secure open-source survey system. With the survey enjoying the iron-clad security of our highly custom hosting environment (maintained exclusively for our clients), we worked closely with The Monday Campaigns and Johns Hopkins University to QA each and every survey question.
Our clients are thrilled with the finished application, which ran each user group smoothly through its one-year study period. Feedback from users has been positive as well, with one referring to the Healthy Monday Tips website as a "motivation machine." Every Monday, users receive their scheduled Healthy Monday Tip reminder email, which directs them to log in to the Healthy Monday Tips website. Once logged in, the user views an "inbox" of unread tips which they can choose to try or to ignore. The user can also check off tips they tried, rate their usefulness, and add them to a "top tips" favorites list.
We're all so excited with our work to contributing to the public's better heath that we've already begun our next web development project with The Monday Campaigns. We see a mutually bright and healthy future ahead!