Mind-Body Medicine


Emerging Role of Mobile-Health Technology Interventions for Wellness and Disease Management

Mobile Phones
Mobile Phones

Every year millions die from cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, HIV infection, and diabetes. These conditions contribute to 40 % of all deaths in the more developed and affluent countries.  For each of these diseases, healthy behaviors have been identified, which can prevent onset of these diseases. For example, the onset of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes can be prevented by maintaining a healthy body weight. Once these conditions are present,behavioral and lifestyle change are important for managing the course of these illnesses.

Efforts to increase healthy behaviors and minimize health risk behaviors (such as smoking) become increasingly important in enhancing health in this context. Mobile technology such as texting and smart phones offer platforms for innovative approaches to health enhancement and disease management.

An article in the PLOS Medicine open source journal provides a review of research on the use of mobile technology to support health:

Free, C., Phillips, G., Galli, L., Watson, L., Felix, L., Edwards, P., Patel, V., & Haines, A. (2013). The effectiveness of mobile-health technology-based health behaviour change or disease management interventions for health care consumers: A systematic review.  PLOS Medicine, 10(1), e1001362. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001362

The entire article is available online at:  http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001362

The authors reviewed all studies on mobile-health technology with a controlled trial design from 1990 to 2010, including articles meeting specific criteria including completeness of follow-up and reliable measures of outcome. They identified 75 studies, 59 using mobile technology for disease management and 26 using such technology to modify health related behaviors.  For example, one well constructed study used texting technology to enhance adherence to anti-retroviral therapy in HIV patients in Kenya, and reduced the viral load in the texting group. Two other studies in the United Kingdom used text messaging technology to support smoking cessation, and doubled the rate of smoking cessation in the text message group, compared to controls.

The authors concluded that the success of mobile health interventions was well supported for smoking cessation and adherence to anti-retroviral therapies, but that the results on such interventions as weight management and increasing activity/exercise were mixed. They called for continued innovation and an improvement in the quality of outcome studies.

Graduate students in the fields of integrative medicine are in a prime position to utilize mobile-technology and conduct innovative pilot studies supporting healthy behaviors and well lifestyles.    (Donald Moss, PhD)

Posted at 08:38 PM

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