Andrew Sadauskas reports a three-year collaboration is set to deliver the world’s first large-scale evaluation of app-based mindfulness interventions, in conjunction with the University of Newcastle.

Mental health nonprofit Smiling Mind is teaming up with the nib foundation to develop and evaluate a new app-based mindfulness meditation program, with the aim of helping Australians to better manage their mental health.

Under the three-year $750,000 partnership, Smiling Mind will develop and deliver the Building Healthy Habits for Healthy Minds program, which will provide a range of home-based mindfulness tools designed for everyday use by Australian adults.

Additionally, the collaboration will undertake the largest evaluation ever conducted of an app-based mindfulness intervention, in conjunction with the University of Newcastle.

The new program is expected to launch in June 2018, and will be delivered through the mental health nonprofit’s existing iOS and Android app.

Smiling Mind CEO Addie Wootten.

Smiling Mind CEO Addie Wootten says her organisation was established in 2012 with a vision of developing accessible tools to improve mental health and wellbeing for young people. The organisaiton’s app, launched in 2013, is currently used by more than 2.6 million Australians.

“As we’ve grown and evolved, we’ve realised that what we’re offering is also quite relevant and useful to anyone at any age. So we now run a whole range of programs delivered primarily through the Smiling Mind app for people of different ages,” Wootten says.

“All of our programs are based in mindfulness and meditation, and the aim of the programs is to provide people with practical tools that they can use in their everyday life to ensure they are looking after their health and wellbeing in a proactive way.”

“The funding that we’re receiving from the nib foundation is designed to offer a new program for adults to use in their everyday life, with a real focus on embedding practice in how we live our lives in and around the home.”

Evaluation process

A cornerstone of the collaboration is the collection of data to measure the impact of the new program in real-time across a range of key mental health indicators, including social connections, sleep quality, the development of personal coping skills and resilience to everyday stress.

Overseeing this evaluation process will be UON associate professor Frances Kay-Lambkin, who is a senior research fellow at the National Health and Medical Research Council and the president of the International Society for Research on Internet Interventions.

“The aim of the project is to develop a new program, but also to use the program to test how we can use technology to build health and wellbeing,” Wootten says.

“Part of the project is to evaluate the impact of this program for the population that use the app, so we’re hoping to use technology to collect really interesting data around users’ activity, lifestyle habits, and look at how we can help everyone form healthy habits to build their mental health.”

nib foundation executive officer Amy Tribe.

The process will provide Smiling Mind with a unique opportunity to gain a greater understanding about the impact of its work, while allowing nib foundation to test the efficacy and social impact of new app-based approaches.

In a statement, nib foundation executive officer Amy Tribe said “we believe that robust evaluation is critical for building an evidence base, informing future service delivery and ensuring long term sustainability.”

Common aims

The collaboration is the first between Smiling Mind and nib foundation. It came about after the foundation issued a public expression of interest round asking for multi-year partnership applicants with a focus on health promotions and sustained behaviour change.

“I think we align really well because they focus on physical health and wellbeing from a prevention point of view. They are really looking at programs and interventions that can be sustained over a long period of time and can have a lasting impact on the lives of Australians,” Wootten says.

“There will be a lot of work over the next six months to develop the program and build the evaluation tools, and our aim is to hopefully launch a new program in the middle of the year that anyone can use.”

Smiling Mind is a non-for-profit web and app-based meditation program developed by psychologists and educators to help bring mindfulness into your life.


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