Health-Promoting Apps: a Content Analysis

James Barrett* Joshua West*
Carl Hanson* Michael Barnes*
James Barrett*, Brigham Young University, Provo, United States
Joshua West*, Brigham Young University, Provo, United States
Cougar Hall, Brigham Young University, Provo, United States
Matthew Morgan, Brigham Young University, Provo, United States
Carl Hanson*, Brigham Young University, Provo, United States
Michael Barnes*, Brigham Young University, provo, United States

Track: Research
Presentation Topic: Mobile & Tablet Health Applications
Presentation Type: Poster presentation
Submission Type: Single Presentation

Building: LKSC Conference Center Stanford
Room: Lower Lobby
Date: 2011-09-18 12:00 PM – 01:00 PM
Last modified: 2011-08-15

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The advent of the iPhone opened the mobile device platform for freelance developers to design third-party apps, which greatly expand the device’s functionality and utility. In the health and fitness category on Apple’s iTunes, developers have created thousands of apps for download. Despite the apps’ popularity, little is known about the potential health utility of the many third-party apps being designed to interface with them. The purpose of this study was to provide a panoramic perspective of the thousands of paid apps pertaining to the Health and Fitness category on iTunes.
A database of 3,773 paid apps under the Health and Fitness category of iTunes was compiled. The database included the title of the app, the developer’s description and the price. Each app was coded according to one of the CDC’s core content areas for health promotion, which included the following: diet, exercise, personal health, sexual and reproductive health, and sleep disorders. Each app was coded to determine its role as a predisposing, facilitating, or reinforcing factor, which are each dimensions in the commonly used Precede-Proceed model.
The coding is not yet complete, but preliminary results show that exercise and diet apps are the most common, while sleep disorder apps are least common. Across all of the CDC’s core content areas, apps are most likely to serve a predisposing role for behavior, which means they mostly provide knowledge and information. Facilitating apps are those which reduce barriers to engaging in health behaviors (e.g., gym locator) and were more common than reinforcing apps, which provide feedback to the user.
App downloads from Apple’s iTunes app store have surpassed three billion, which is a manifestation of their popularity. Public health practitioners wishing to implement the use of third-party apps for such devices as Apple’s iPhone should recommend apps when the behavioral deficiency is strongly related to a lack of knowledge or information. Due to the large number of such apps, exercise and diet apps may have the greatest variety of features and options to improve the user’s experience.

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