Reversing the trends of chronic, lifestyle-related disease

Digital health

In the 1980s, the median onset age of chronic, lifestyle-related diseases was 55. Today, the median age is 43. Despite overwhelming evidence that behavioural change can significantly reduce or prevent the severity of these conditions, there is no ‘magic bullet’ or one-size-fits-all approach. TNO’s Health Applications team is dedicated to reversing the trend of chronic disease through a multitude of evidence-based, personalised health applications.

Fit for purpose

Physicians, health specialists, food/ supplement manufacturers, diagnostic firms, device developers, pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies want to provide the most effective and targeted advice and support for people at risk of, or suffering from, chronic disease. But it can be difficult to identify the solutions that work best. From unsubstantiated or incorrect information to lack of access to specialists to limited perspectives, these health professionals and stakeholders often lack the 360° view they need to provide well-informed advice or solutions.

TNO’s Health Application team knows that increasing the health span is not just about biomedical data. Treatment of chronic (pre)disease must be as unique and personal as the individuals themselves. Supporting a patient eager to lose weight, control diabetes or heart disease, engage with a treatment or increase activity requires personalised (blended) interventions and proven solutions that are built to last.

Collectively, these interventions and solutions centre around ‘behavioural change’. Enabling effective behavioural change requires:

  • deep and proven insight into the biological causes of a metabolic derailment,
  • targeted intervention(s) (including technologies) to address these biological causes,
  • consideration for each individual’s sociological, cultural, psychological, economic and personality factors,
  • awareness of each individual’s personal goals and willingness to accept health-related coaching/messaging,
  • knowledge of the lifestyle and behavioural patterns and habits that will impact each individual’s health journey.

ELFI Health: Empowerment Lifestyle & Food advice – Interaction for prediabetes

The ELFI public/private partnership is a cooperation between TNO, Roche Diagnostics, technology partners Vivica and World Data Exchange and a private general physician (GP). People suspected of having prediabetes visit their GP for a point-of-care measurement of blood HbA1c levels and lipid profile, using Roche’s diagnostic tool. If prediabetes is diagnosed, patients use a dedicated app and online blended care platform – designed by Vivica and powered by TNO’s modular personalised health advice system.

The platform is connected to patients’ electronic patient dossier via World Data Exchange’s personal health data environment. Patients receive personalised lifestyle and nutrition support guided both by the local dietician, by peers and through the digital platform in order to empower participants to reverse their condition before diabetes occurs. Upon successful completion of the study, the programme can be scaled for a broader audience.

Building blocks of health

As an independent organisation with a long history of research on this complex topic, TNO is in a unique position to bring together expertise, insights, technology and networks that can address chronic (pre)disease from as many different dimensions as possible. We enable health professionals and stakeholders to provide evidence-based, personalised and engaging health advice that people are able – and willing – to follow. This not only will help to reverse the trend of earlier onset of chronic disease, but will also improve patients’ quality of life and ensure higher rates of success for the products, services, apps and devices that will help patients along the way.

TNO has a wide variety of building blocks to construct solutions for a range of chronic (pre)diseases and treatments. Starting from a core of evidence-based knowledge, TNO also applies knowledge and expertise from social science, behavioural science, data science, artificial intelligence and technology.

We create an ecosystem of the right experts – from diagnosticians to nutritionists to IT professionals – and formulate solutions with a holistic view on patient well-being and compliance. This ensures that when people are advised on how to manage their chronic illness, it is as tailored to their specific needs, biology, personality and circumstances as possible. Whether in the form of an advisory dashboard for blended care, a targeted app, food or supplement production, lifestyle advice, medicine, a health program at work or a host of other applications, health professionals and stakeholders can be assured of evidence-based and effective support.

IMAGINE: Personalised food production for performance and recovery

In the IMAGINE public/private partnership, TNO is partnering with Wageningen University & Research, food industry partners, the Dutch Ministry of Defence and Ede Gelderse Vallei hospital to design a 3D printer that can produce food that is fit-for-purpose. Powered by TNO’s modular, personalised health advice system, the printer can produce personalised food products.

Now in their third year of collaboration, the group will run two field studies in the summer of 2024 with custom-designed food for military personnel, and tailored food for patients recently discharged from the Intensive Care Unit, still recovering from serious illness in the hospital. TNO’s Personalised Nutrition Advice platform creates the nutritional contents best designed for performance and recovery (respectively), taking into account personal data, climate, planned activities, medical data and dietary habits and preferences. These are translated into personal caloric and macro- and micronutrient requirements for the circumstances. These ‘recipes’ are then printed as food products.

Advice that sticks

Often, one of the greatest challenges of any behavioural change is long-term adherence. Even people with the best intentions and motivation find it difficult to maintain healthy habits, or to make those lifestyle changes an integral part of their lives. Our extensive research allows for the (digital) integration of the latest behaviour change strategies into health applications in order to stimulate long-term adherence to the personal lifestyle advice, programme or service.

Our personalised Health Advice System is a continuously updated database of all the knowledge, models, algorithms and health messages we have collected over the years. With the use of smart algorithms, artificial intelligence and in consultation with health professionals, we tap into that system to design the most effective tools possible. From wearables, clinical measurements, do-it-yourself measurements and personality mapping to just-in-time adaptive interventions, and from dietary protocols and ingredient optimisation to advice for timing of food and medicine. For any aspect of the health improvement journey, our knowledge, methodology and technology are the foundation of personalised, targeted advice for prevention, cure and care.

Do you want to contribute to the reduction of chronic disease through evidence-based health applications? Ready to create more successful products and services and more compliance to behavioural change or your health application? Contact us today to find out how to put our science to work for you.

SLIMMER personalised: Empowering better outcomes

The Department of Public Health (GGD) in North and East Gelderland designed the effective, two-year SLIMMER programme to support overweight and obese citizens with their weight loss journey. Its Combined Lifestyle Intervention trajectory includes physical activity, nutrition and behavioural maintenance with (group) guidance from physiotherapists, dieticians and lifestyle coaches. The GGD collaborated with TNO to evaluate the impact of a personalised version on compliance and efficacy.

TNO helped SLIMMER by implementing 360° diagnostic tools, personalised digital diet and exercise advice accessible by health care professionals, a dashboard for health care professionals and participants to monitor weekly progress, smart devices for daily feedback and an app for goal-setting and goal- and food-monitoring. After six months in the personalised programme, all participants were still engaged in it, which is not the case for the regular programme. Weight loss was almost double as compared to the classic intervention. Visit the SLIMMER website here (Dutch only).

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