Apps spurs sun safety behavior, but use remains low

A smartphone app providing personal advice can help reduce unprotected sun exposure, but use of the tool was lower than expected, according to a recent study.

The study, "Evaluation of Immediate and 12-Week Effects of a Smartphone Sun-Safety Mobile Application," published in the Journal of American Medical Association, involved the collection of data from 202 adults, 18 years and older, on sun exposure during a three-month period using a smartphone app.

The app allowed participants to share insight on sun safety practices, sunburn incidents and also pushed out reminders to apply or reapply sunscreen and to get out of the sun. The software also displayed the hourly UV Index and vitamin D production based on the forecast UV Index, time and location.

Participants using the app reported more shade use but less sunscreen use, and there was no significant difference in the number of sunburns. Those using the app reported spending less time in the sun and using all protection behaviors than those not using the app, states the study.

"The mobile app improved some sun protection. Use of the mobile app was lower than expected but associated with increased sun protection. Providing personalized advice when and where people are in the sun may help reduce sun exposure," the authors say. 

However, while the researchers found lower use of that app, studies have shown that apps for healthcare use are being embraced. Nearly half of American adults, 48 percent, are extremely interested in using smartphone and tablets for checking blood pressure, 47 percent are interested in tools that monitor their heartbeats and 23 percent are somewhat interested in using mHealth apps and devices, FierceMobileHealthcare previously reported.

In addition, physicians and healthcare providers are tapping apps to spur greater patient involvement in their care. Several hospitals within the Tampa-based BayCare Health System are deploying a mobile software-tablet solution to nurse managers who visit patients daily to capture patient feedback and manage patient-related tasks.

The JAMA study shows that while mHealth apps can communicate a large amount of personalized, real-time health information, effectiveness is directly related to user support for such tools.

"Use of the mobile application was greater than in a previous trial and was associated with greater sun protection, especially among women. Strategies to increase the use of the mobile application are needed if the application is to be deployed effectively to the general adult population," the study's authors say.

For more information:
- read the study

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