Recommender Systems for Healthy Behavior Change

Sedentary lifestyles and bad eating habits influence the onset of many serious health problems. Healthy behavior change is an arduous task, and requires a careful planning. In this thesis, we propose that behavior recommenders can help their users achieve healthy behavior change. Such a system should inspire its users with small, incremental and achievable goals. For this, it must resolve a trade-off between two opposing objectives: help the user achieve a steady improvement in target behavior, and avoid extreme goals that may injure or discourage the user. This is an unprecedented challenge in the recommender systems research. If the system understands the impacts of past interventions for behavior change, it can determine its users’ behavioral responses to its own recommendations. This implies a specific data curation, in which we not only measure people's behavior but also deliberately introduce an intervention to monitor its effect on people's patterns. In turn, the system can use these existing users' information to derive the right procedure for effective recommendations. In this study we capitalize on this insight and develop InspiRE - our behavior recommender framework. Through InspiRE we propose the following contributions: 1) We design the data curation. 2) We develop the novel approaches for behavior profiling 3) We develop an evaluation process for this novel type of recommender system, and also compare it with traditional, similarity-based recommendation approach. We curate a dataset that contains information of daily step counts and social intervention for 83 people. InspiRE successfully uses the observations from this dataset, and proposes recommendations that are both effective and feasible. We also show that InspiRE can generalize to other dimensions of well being: we demonstrate this through a dataset that contains the snacking patterns of 73 people, who receive message-based interventions. We observe that InspiRE's recommendation strategy is in line with theories of behavior change.

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