Yulin Hswen MPH1, Vaidhy Murti2, Adenugbe A. Vormawor3, Robbie Bhattacharjee3, John A. Naslund MPH4
1Center on Media and Child Health, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA; 2Department of Computer Science, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA; 3Department of Computer Science, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA; 4The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Lebanon, NH, USA
Corresponding Author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal MTM 2:2:8-14, 2013
Background: Rapid growth in Smartphone use among children affords potential opportunities to target health behaviors such as dietary habits; however, few mobile health applications are specifically designed with these individuals in mind. This brief report describes our step-by-step approach towards developing a mobile health application for targeting nutrition behaviors among children.
Methods: Descriptions of the 10 most popular paid and 10 most popular free Smartphone applications available on the Apple iTunes store for ages 4 and up as of March 2012 were qualitatively analyzed. The relevance of key characteristics found in these applications was then further explored for their potential to improve dietary behaviours amongst children, and a mobile application was developed.
Results: Three prominent characteristics of the most popular applications emerged: 1) virtual avatars or characters (observed in 50% of the applications); 2) gaming (observed in 75% of the applications); and 3) social media (observed in 45% of the applications). These features were then incorporated into the design of a mobile health application called Avafeed, which uses a virtual avatar and gaming to help make choosing healthier food options easier among children. The application was successfully released onto the Apple iTunes Store in September 2012.
Conclusions: In this unconventional approach, evidence-based research was combined with information procured from a qualitative review of popular applications available on the Apple iTunes Store in order to design a potentially relevant and popular mobile health application for use among children.