mHealth app assesses breast cancer risk and aids prevention

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Interviewing women at a breast-imaging center in an urban safety net institution before and after they used an mHealth mobile health app on a tablet, researchers concluded that older, diverse, and low-income women found it easy to use and acceptable. These findings were published in the Journal of Health Disparities Research Practices (2014; 7(4):6).

"Studies such as this are critical to understand how mHealth tools can be used effectively in diverse, low-income populations," said senior author Elissa Ozanne, PhD, from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Hanover, New Hampshire.

"We need to design all tools, and particularly novel tools such as mHealth tools, with these populations in mind in order to ensure equitable access. This study identifies some of the barriers and benefits of using an mHealth tool in this low-income, diverse population."

Ozanne's work reported that 11 of the 15 women, ages 45 to 79 years, interviewed before and after using the mHealth tool preferred it to a paper tool and found it easy to use. Variations in opinions are discussed for women with limited mobile phone experience, and for women whose first language is Spanish. Many suggested it is essential that staff be available to explain the mHealth tool and troubleshoot any problems.

"In general, we found this population preferred using an mHealth app to a paper format," explained Ozanne. "They found it more enjoyable than the paper format, easy to use, and were able to learn how to use it quickly."

Looking forward, Ozanne continues to examine the validity and reliability of data collected using mHealth tools in this population to ensure that the methods can be used effectively in clinical settings. The researchers concluded that mHealth tools are a novel way to engage diverse populations to improve clinical care and bridge gaps in health disparities.

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