Week 10: “This is not the end…”

“… This is the beginning.” – Coach Nick Saban.

Of course, for my last post, it seems appropriate that I quote my school’s football coach. That quote has been floating around my head all day. This morning, I said goodbye to everyone at my CrossFit gym. I have really created a little family there. Starting over at a new gym in Tuscaloosa will be tough, but alas, I will persevere.

On that note, I believe the study is ready to go. Allison and I have been rigorously testing the website in several browsers. It’s quite impressive what different browsers will render and support (or not support.)

After we deploy, and long after I am home, we will begin analyzing the data that comes in.

While I will not be in the Wii lab anymore, I will continue working on the project I started 10 weeks ago.

With my living space being cleared out and my boarding pass printed and ready, it’s beginning to feel like I am, in fact, leaving tomorrow. And what a strange feeling it is.

Week 9: Can You Break This?

Now that our website is finally finished,  I started emailing a couple of my friends. I asked them to test the site, making notes of any problems and issues they ran into along the way. These tests actually provided excellent feedback. After spending 8 weeks developing PHP pages, a little but of tunnel vision sets in. There were several areas that I had seemed to overlook. While they were all minor issues, it is really interesting how certain errors can slip by. It’s true what they say, you test it how you build it.

While waiting on feedback, I also talked to my advisor about submitting an abstract to GHC, and we discussed other possible conferences in my future.

I’ve also been researching more graduate schools and really evaluating all of my options for next year.

Week 8: Check

Week 8 involved making a TODO list, and checking things off.

Things in the list involved mostly display issues created by CSS/HTML in Internet Explorer.

I needed to make all the Submit/Enter buttons on the pages more uniform, fix tables that magically run off the page, changing font sizes, and fixing placeholders for textboxes.

Allison and I also decided that what our software needed was a progress bar, so participants could know how much of the study they had completed/have left to complete.

Last on my list is to submit a progress report to the DREU website, which will be happening as soon as the “publish” button is clicked.

Week 6 & 7: Fix + Break, Repeat

Well, I am combining these past two weeks, simply because they have blended together in my mind. When Allison and I started building the website for our software, we were on server 1. During week 6, we switched to a different server, so the information we gather will be more secure. During the switch, some of our PHP pages stopped loading or working properly. That being said, much of week 6 was spent fixing problems created by the switch. We have also ben able to test our website out on people in our lab. Through that, we have been given excellent feedback, which brings us to week 7. Week 7 was correcting things missed, like spelling errors and faulty pages. At the end of week 7, we tested again. Things are improving all the time.

Week 5: Paths

Week 5 was caffeine filled. (This photograph is proof.)

I spent my week going through web form paths and making sure the appropriate data is being sent the the database.

Through several trials and several errors, I learned the pros and cons of $_SESSION and 303 errors.

Fun times. My PHP skills are improving.

Week 4: You’re here already?

Let’s start with some really awesome news, shall we? Allison and I received confirmation that our IRB documents were approved! We submitted… last Tuesday? Regardless, getting approval this early is awesome and exciting. This week, much like last week, I have been submerged in PHP/Javascript. I am now getting data to and from MySQL, which is exciting. Dr. Vrbsky, my database teacher at Alabama, would be so proud. Things are coming together. Webpages are coming together.

Week 3: Time flies by when you’re writing code

Is it really Friday already? I have been quite the busy bee this week!

The IRB docs were finished this week! It feels like they have been prepped forever. Bless Allison’s heart, I was only here for the end of it!

On Monday, I mostly worked on reviewing and making the appropriate adjustments to the documents. The rest of the week has been all about webforms. After Allison and I hammered out the basic requirements on Tuesday, I got to work setting up the MySQL database, and got started on HTML and PHP code. My webform skills need a little work, I might add. Today I got books on the subjects, so it seems that reading will find its way into my agenda again.

Week 2: It’s all in your head

Okay, not really. Diabetes is obviously more than a mental game.

CrossFit, on the other hand…

Let me explain:

I joined a CrossFit gym upon arriving here. Each session has a WOD (Workout of the Day) that you try to complete as quickly and powerfully as you can. There are times when you want to give up, times when you think “This is too tough, why am I doing this?” It’s not easy, but you have to remind yourself that the outcome will be worth it. You will feel stronger and better.  This is all extremely relevant to what I’ve been reading this week in Conner and Norman’s Predicting Health Behaviour, namely the Health Belief Model (HBM) and the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) chapters.

HBM focuses on what drives people towards, or away from, making a change. A person needs to possess the desire to change, understand the steps that are needed to make that change, and limit any potential hindrances to progress. A lot of this chapter dealt with the fact that people, in a sense, “don’t know what they don’t know.” For example, “… events that are dramatic or personally relevant, and therefore easy to imagine or recall, tend to be overestimated. There is also a tendency for people to underestimate the extent to which they are personally vulnerable to health and life-threatening problems.” People need to understand the root causes of the thing in which they are trying to change.

SCT deals with self-efficacy, which is “concerned with individuals’ beliefs in their ability to exercise control over challenging demands and their own functioning.” The main sources of self-efficacy are believing in one’s own abilities through past experiences (e.g. you’ve overcome a battle before, so you know you can do it again), comparing your abilities to others (e.g. “If she can do it, so can I.”), a supportive community (e.g. peers, health care providers, etc.), and emotional arousal (e.g. not viewing the situation as a threat). Other key factors that play into self-efficacy are adherence, motivation, optimism, prevention, and experience. “Self-efficacy has been shown to be a significant predictor of physical, social and self-evaluative outcome expectancies regarding healthy nutrition.” It’s with this sentiment that we have created our study. When users can submit their health data and see that data displayed on a screen, they become more aware of the problem at hand, e.g. extremely elevated blood glucose levels. After becoming aware of the problem, they also become aware that it is something that they can manage, e.g. through diet alterations. When they make changes and see data change, e.g. blood glucose levels go down, they become motivated to continue making these positive decisions.

I am thankful that I am able to apply what I’ve learned to CrossFit. When I see personal improvement through these strenuous exercises, even though at the time it can be particularly difficult, I want to pursue progress. Health improvement is a journey, it truly is.

Week 1: Dear Journal, I read journals

Week 1 involved becoming familiar with things: Boulder, campus, my area of research.

Boulder is beautiful. I have made it a mission to let everyone see its beauty, thus filling all of my social media outlets with pictures of the mountains.

I am also impressed with the uniformity of this campus. Coming from The University of Alabama, I am very much used to seeing a range of buildings in 1800′s style (now featuring one women’s bathroom!) to a very modern now. All the buildings look the same, which creates a very nice flow on campus. (Though this does make it very easy for my no-sense-of-direction self to get lost)

Allison provided me with several journal papers to ready that were related to our study.

What I have gathered:

I have observed two common themes in the papers I’ve read — willingness and control. One of the most important thing to consider in any health management study, is that software is only going to make a difference for people who want to see a difference. With the UbiFit software, when people set goals to live more healthfully, they were successful because it was something that they truly wanted to change. The people that are not willing to make lifestyle changes will have a harder time seeing positive results. The other important consideration is control. Whether it be pertaining to lifestyle choices (diet, exercise), data (UbiFit Garden), or blood sugar levels, people like to feel like they have a say in the outcome. Visualization is key for people with diabetes to feel like they have a sense of control. This allows them to reflect in choices and what could have led to certain outcomes. When they can actually see what factors affect things such as blood glucose levels, they are able to modify and adjust these levels. This puts them in charge of readings. Similarly, when patients are able to reflect and review data with their health care providers, it’s through feedback that they can make changes.

It is imperative for people with diabetes, and the people around them, to understand the importance of good monitoring practices and habits. It has also been shown that visualizations of data (blood glucose levels, food consumption, exercise) can help with management/maintenance, because it becomes easy to associate action with consequence. Feedback also encourages them to continue using the system.

Putting these things into consideration, our system hopes to improve health monitoring and communication through a glanceable display. Because texting is such a prevalent and easy means of communication, implementing text updates and inquiries show simplify diabetes management. Teens will send texts such as “bg?” to ask when his/her last blood glucose reading was. We hope that the #Heath@You system will be easy to use/interpret, and therefore users will continue using it. We are also interested in finding out what patients/caregivers like to track (e.g. will they mostly inquire about carb amounts in food, Hb levels, when insulin was taken, etc.).