Summarizing Behavioral Change Goals from SMS Exchanges to Support Health Coaches

Regular physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and improved mental well-being. Yet, more than half of the US population is insufficiently active. Health coaching has been successful in promoting healthy behaviors. In this paper, we present our work towards assisting health coaches by extracting the physical activity goal the user and coach negotiate via text messages. We show that information captured by dialogue acts can help to improve the goal extraction results. We employ both traditional and transformer-based machine learning models for dialogue acts prediction and find them statistically indistinguishable in performance on our health coaching dataset. Moreover, we discuss the feedback provided by the health coaches when evaluating the correctness of the extracted goal summaries. This work is a step towards building a virtual assistant health coach to promote a healthy lifestyle.

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