Mobile Health Technologies: Achievements & Challenges

It is estimated that 1 in 5 American adults use some technology to track health data and the most popular health apps downloaded are related to exercise, counting steps, or heart rate.   The American Heart Association has issued a Scientific Statement based on a review published, peer-reviewed studies relating to the effectiveness of mobile health technologies (mHealth) for managing weight, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The Statement panel finds that the mHealth technologies examined in the statement correspond to the goals in the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 — seven simple ways to improve  heart health – eating better, being more active, managing your weight, avoiding tobacco smoke, reducing blood sugar, and controlling both cholesterol and blood pressure.  For weight management, people who include mobile technology in a comprehensive lifestyle program for weight loss were more successful in short-term weight loss compared to those who tried to lose weight on their own; however, there is a lack of data as to long-term weight loss maintenance.  For smoking cessation , mobile phone apps using text messaging to help quit smoking can almost double a person’s chances of quitting, but about 90% of people using these apps fail to quit smoking after six months.  For physical activity, using an online program boosted physical activity more than not using one, but the data is lacking to show that wearable physical activity monitoring devices help a person to move more.  Observing that: “numerous innovations in health information technology are empowering individuals to assume a more active role in monitoring and managing their chronic conditions and therapeutic regimens, as well as their health and wellness,” the study authors submit that: “in some of the designated areas of cardiovascular risk, there were few studies reporting on the use of [mobile health] supported interventions.”

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