Latino diabetics deserve greater focus in developing mHealth apps

Mobile app developers should take the needs of Latino diabetics into account when creating mHealth apps for disease management, according to new research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research: mHealth and uHealth.

The authors note diabetes is about 50 percent higher among Latinos than in the general population, and say that Latino diabetics have unique needs that should be reflected in diabetes apps.

"Existing research as well as our survey results suggest that many Latinos do not possess the prerequisite diabetes knowledge or self-awareness to fully benefit from the most prevalent functionalities offered by the most popular diabetes apps," writes author Dirk Schroeder, a professor in Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Schroeder and co-author John Patrick Williams, M.D., reviewed 20 top diabetes apps to determine prevalent features and functionalities, and conducted an online survey via HolaDoctor, a health website for Latinos, regarding use of diabetes apps.

"We recommend developers incorporate more basic features such as diabetes education, reminders to check blood glucose levels or take medications, Spanish language interfaces, and glucometer connectivities, which are relatively underrepresented in the most popular diabetes apps currently available in Spanish," the researchers say.

App makers have long focused on diabetes management, given the expanding patient base and increasing use of self-management healthcare technologies. However, such developers also should pay greater attention to diabetics with special needs, including low-vision users, according to a study conducted by University of Washington researchers.

Diabetes mHealth tools are advancing at a rapid pace. One recent development features a laser-powered device that could eliminate finger pricking to measure and monitor blood glucose levels.

The researchers say that specific, Latino-focused chronic disease management tools should be a focus for developers.

"[Mobile] health is a promising new treatment modality for diabetes, though few smartphone apps have been designed specifically for Latinos," they say.

For more information:
- here's the study