Funding for Modif-i

26 Jun 2023

Turning Point is excited to announce Head of Research and Workforce Development, Prof Victoria Manning has received funding from the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund to develop a new app called Modif-i.

Vic Manning

Similar to SWiPE, the app will use cognitive bias modification (CBM) to help people quit smoking.

Australia’s struggle to quit smoking

Tobacco is the most commonly used substance in Australia. It is also one of the deadliest. As the leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia, tobacco use also accounts for 13 percent of overall deaths. 

According to the recent Rethink Addiction and KPMG report, tobacco is the most expensive addiction in Australia costing the national economy $35.8 billion.

Although 40 percent of smokers try to quit each year, only 5 percent are successful, making tobacco one of the toughest substances to give up.

However, A/Prof Victoria Manning and her team are looking at developing an app that will help Australians quit smoking.

“There is no safe amount of tobacco to consume so it is important to find new ways to help Australians quit,” A/Prof Manning said.

In 2020, A/Prof Manning led the development of SWiPE, an app that delivers personalised CBM with her study published in 2021 showing that it helped people reduce their drinking. As such her team are wanting to adapt it for smoking as a tool to help people quit.

What is cognitive bias modification (CBM)?

Cognitive bias modification (CBM) is a cognitive training intervention that directly reduces the brain’s tendency to automatically notice and respond to addiction cues.

We are designing the app to work alongside the values of those who will use it. Participants will train their brain to disengage with smoking cues and engage more with cues that relate to their personal goals and values, which should reinforce motivation to quit” A/Prof Manning said.

With approximately 90 percent of Australians owning smartphones, apps like Modif-i could deliver widely accessible smoking cessation interventions, including to people experiencing health inequities (e.g., due to geographical disadvantage and limited access to affordable smoking cessation aids such as nicotine replacement therapy).

“Once we develop Modif-i it can also be used alongside other therapies and strategies people use to quit smoking.”

How will the app be developed?

Through a collaboration with behavioural scientists at Cancer Council Victoria, Deakin and Flinder University, A/Prof Manning and her team at Turning Point will recruit 200 Victorian smokers to participate in a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing Modif-i to a control version. Outcomes will be assessed at the end of the 4-week intervention period, and at 1-month and 3-month follow-ups. 

The team will also work alongside counsellors at Quitline and people with lived experience of quitting smoking when designing the app.

“We will consult with counsellors and people with lived experience about various aspects when designing the app, such as the correct language, the frequency of questions and the types of images we need to have available.”

The team hopes that by developing the app it will provide a low cost, scalable and convenient tool to help support the health and wellbeing of people wanting to quit smoking.