Preventive intervention app could help teens tackle health issues

A mobile app could prove valuable in preventive intervention programs for adolescents dealing with a range of issues, from drug use to sexually transmitted disease.

The findings, detailed in a research paper published at the JMIR mHealth and uHealth, are the result of a study involving 29 adolescents, ages 13 to 18, focused on building a digital Storytelling for Empowerment (SFE) preventive intervention tool.

The creation of a digital SFE, notes the study authors, would help urban-based teens who often are underserved when it comes to preventive services. Researchers helping with the study are from the University of Michigan; The Corner Health Center, in Michigan; Fielding Graduate University, in Santa Barbara, California; and the University of Texas at Austin.

Study participants provided feedback on everything from app design and functionality to features and content. One noted concern from participants was data confidentiality and user privacy, noted researchers. The study also states digital tools for young patients are scarce despite the tens of thousands of health apps available.

"There is a dearth of mHealth HIV/STI and drug abuse preventive interventions for primary care," note the authors, who conclude that "agile software development" would be useful in building culturally specific mHealth interventions.

"An important next step in this program of research is to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of S4E on adolescent sexual risk and drug use behaviors, and HIV/STI testing," they say.

Digital tools for young patients increasingly are being adopted as the population is well versed in using mobile devices and apps. Yale University's School of Medicine researchers developed an iPad game three years ago to inform minority teens about HIV prevention and the Children's National Health System in the District of Columbia piloted a mobile game app last year for children with sickle cell disease.

For more information:
- read the research paper