How to design a cancer prevention smartphone app

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smartphone app

It is estimated that by the year 2030, cancer will harm more than 26 million people all over the world. Many factors contribute to cancer, such as smoking cigarette, drinking alcohol, too much exposure to the sun, and lack of physical exercise.

It is clear that if people can have a healthy lifestyle, the ratios of cancer will decrease dramatically. Smartphones can be very helpful in this sense.

First, almost everyone has a smartphone. Second, mobile phones are portable and people carry them everywhere. Third, it is possible to provide health knowledge to people via smartphone apps.

In a study recently published in International Journal of Medical Informatics, researchers examined how to design a useful cancer prevention smartphone app.

Researchers first recruited 3 groups of healthy young adults (16 people) to get their opinions about health-related apps. Participants talked about their lifestyle, experiences in using health-related apps, concerns about the apps, desired features of useful health apps, and factors influencing app use.

Based on these discussions, researchers developed an online questionnaire to get feedback from a larger sample of participants (798 people).

Results showed that 43% of participants used their smartphone to monitor health-related behaviors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, body weight, diet, and exercise.

People emphasized 4 features for a cancer prevention app: tracking health behaviors, setting health goals, tailoring information, and reminding medical appointments and healthy behaviors. In addition, people stressed the privacy and safety of personal health data.

For the long-term app usage, participants believed the easiness of use, attractiveness of user interface, quality of health information, and healthy challenges promotion were important.

Interestingly, women were more concerned about the privacy of personal health data, whereas men were more likely to share their personal data to compete with friends and others.

Researchers suggest that the results provide a guideline to design a useful cancer prevention smartphone app. The app will be called Happy – Health Awareness and Prevention Personalized for You.


Citation: Ribeiro N, Moreira L, Barros A, Almeida AM, Santos-Silva F. (2016). Guidelines for a cancer prevention smartphone application: A mixed-methods study. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 94: 134-142. doi:10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2016.07.007
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