Gender divide in mHealth apps demands attention

The good news about the increasing swell of mHealth platforms is the growth of innovation and competition, which typically leads to bigger and better features and capabilities. The bad news is that there is growing gender divide--mHealth platforms are not taking into account gender-specific health aspects, according to an article at The Atlantic.

A prime example, according to the article, is Apple's HealthKit. The health platform can help consumers monitor everything from heart rate to daily intake of chromium, but not a woman's menstrual cycle. That's despite the fact there are hundreds of menstruation tracking apps on the market.

"How could Apple release a health-tracking app without the ability to monitor what is likely one of the earliest types of quantified-self tracking?" writes Rose Eveleft in the article.

Eveleft says the omission reflects a growing trend by mHealth platform makers to focus on men first and women as a secondary priority, and that app developers are designing purely with men in mind. Apple Health has little if any parameters relevant to females, the article says. 

"I think the designers, who are mostly men are, they're just taking up norms and assumptions that are embedded in our society about women's fertility and sexuality, and reproducing them," Deborah Lupton, a researcher at the University of Canberra, tell The Atlantic. "Regardless of the type of app, we should view it as a cultural product rather than something that's just popped up out of the blue."

The assertion by Eveleft comes as Apple pushes forward with new partners on its HealthKit platform, and as additional tech giants such as BlackBerry and Samsung are moving into mHealth on the heels of Microsoft, Google and Apple.

There is no universal set of variables that would be meaningful or even possible for everyone to track in mHealth tech, Everleft adds.

"The idea that some comprehensive self-tracking app could at some point boil down the universal essentials neglects the fact that humans are different—not just in biology, but in needs and habits and interests. Right now, as these apps are developed largely by men for men, the data they collect might seem to men to be pretty comprehensive," she says.

For more information:
- read the article at The Atlantic

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