Obesity and the Internet
KEVIN R. FONTAINE
DAVID B. ALLISON
The internet is having a substantial impact on daily life. Every day, thousands of new persons come “on-line” and are given near-instantaneous access to a wealth of information (and misinformation) that few dreamed possible even a decade ago. The exponential growth of the internet in conjunction with the increasing trend toward taking more personal responsibility for one’s own health and health care has meant that the “web” has become an important source of health information. In this chapter, we briefly and selectively outline the obesity-related resources available on the internet. We will also highlight recent efforts to incorporate web technologies to promote weight control and obesity prevention, identify key issues, and offer some speculative recommendations for the use of this powerful technology.
A search of key words such as “obesity,” “nutrition,” and “weight loss” on any search engine (e.g., Yahoo, WebCrawler) will unleash thousands of resources. Generally speaking, the resources can be divided into four categories: (1) academic resources, (2) obesityrelated organizations, (3) chat groups and social support resources, and (4) commercial services and products. Table 110.1 presents a small selection of some prominent obesityrelated web sites.
In addition to its value as an information repository, the internet holds great promise as a technology to promote weight loss, long-term weight control, and obesity prevention. An example of the application of web technologies to the problem of obesity is the Shape Up