Smartphones could provides mhealth care for new mums, says researchers
August 11, 2015
Smartphones could be the best way for providing mhealth care to pregnant women and new mothers, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, USA.
By surveying the technology habits of a diverse group of young, low-income, inner-city pregnant and postpartum women, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers found that more 90 per cent of them used smartphones or cell phones on a routine basis. The findings suggest that mobile phones might be the best way for medical providers to reach out to these women during and after their pregnancy – a critical time for monitoring health. Such interventions could decrease the risks of diabetes, obesity and other diseases during childbearing years.
A report on the study, which also looked at patterns in internet usage and texting, was published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
"Pregnancy and the year after delivery – when women must see a doctor – give us a window of opportunity to lock in lifelong preventive health behaviours for them and their families," said Wendy Bennett, the study's lead author and a clinical researcher and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. "But these opportunities are often missed because many women do not return for care or stay engaged with providers. If we could better understand their use of information and communications technology, we could likely design more appropriate, culturally sensitive ways to reach and help them."
Mobile phones stand out by far as the preferred technology these women use, regardless of race or ethnic background, the researchers report. The survey results also revealed important differences in the women's internet use, likely tied to their proficiency in English.
The research team surveyed a cross-section of women attending one of four obstetric or paediatric clinics at Johns Hopkins Medicine's two Baltimore hospitals. Forty per cent of the women were African-American, 28 per cent were Latina, 23 per cent were white, and fewer than 10 per cent belonged to other ethnic groups. A variety of health conditions were present among the women, including pre-pregnancy obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Smartphone use was about one-third more common for African-American women than Latinas, the study showed. In general, internet use by any means was lowest for Latinas, at 51 per cent, with African-Americans at 79 per cent and whites at 87 per cent. Bennett said limited English proficiency, highest in Latinas, was a likely barrier for internet use.
Texting was high across the board – 85 per cent or higher in all groups, though slightly lower among African-American women.
Researchers say their next step is to design and test personalised mobile phone and internet-based approaches for women proficient in English, and alternate Spanish-based approaches for those who don't speak English.