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Using user research, ethnography, digital design, co-design, service design and behaviour change

Creating a digital weight management tool for children

The challenge

Public Health England (PHE) wanted to understand whether building a digital solution or investing in/endorsing an existing solution could help families across England achieve and maintain a healthier weight.


Ethnographic research photos

The approach

The programme followed the new strategy for digital transformation advocated by GDS (Government Digital Services) and was a completely new way of working for PHE. Starting at the Discovery phase, the programmes aim was to understand if there was a) a need for a digital service and b) the opportunities that would be worth developing before deciding if the team should continue onto the Alpha phase.


Discovery was split into three parts:

1) Market research: to see what was out there and interview creators to hear about successes and failures in this area

2) User research: with 10 families across urban, suburban and rural areas of England with weight management issues to understand their needs

3) A gaps analysis: synthesising the market and user research data to identify any unmet needs

The outcome

Discovery research concluded that there were a significant number of user needs that were going unmet by current digital and non digital weight management services. A report detailing findings as well as suggestions on how to proceed during Alpha was created. The report proposed a hypothesis to test and underpin Alpha:

“If we exploit opportunities that digital provides us with then we can deliver more cost effective, accessible and scalable solutions that will result in more children leaving primary school with a healthier weight.”

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