What is it about?

Measuring what people eat is very difficult. Camera-based methods have potential but are often high-tech, requiring apps or expensive devices, and training in how to use them. People from lower socioeconomic positions tend to participate less in studies and we so wanted to develop a method that was as accessible as possible. We wanted to see how well photos taken from an ordinary mobile phone would work. We asked parents to take photos of everything their child ate and drank for 3 days. They sent the photos and we coded them, looking for foods like fruits, vegetables, soft drinks and sweets.

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Why is it important?

The data we got using ordinary mobile phones was good enough to measure the intake of the foods we were interested in at group level, compared to data we got using alternative methods. Importantly, we also spoke to the parents and asked them what they thought of the method. Very many mentioned how easy and familiar the process was - "everyone can take photos"! This can really be important when running a study where there is a risk of low participation rates, especially by under-served groups of society, and where resources for research are tight.


It was really interesting to see how well parents liked this method. Coding photos is very time-consuming, but at least the burden is not on parents, and that is important in order to encourage participation. We hope that this research might encourage other researchers to test and further refine this method in other studies.

Dr Emma Patterson
Karolinska Institutet

This approach offers a new way of reaching disadvantaged families who are otherwise difficult to recruit and engage in health interventions. We have struggled for many years to collect dietary data from these families and this method proved to be an important and useful tool.

Dr Åsa Norman
Karolinska Institutet

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: “Everyone can take photos.” Feasibility and relative validity of phone photography-based assessment of children’s diets – a mixed methods study, Nutrition Journal, May 2020, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1186/s12937-020-00558-4.
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