Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

How Smartphones Could Impact Public Health

(Chart via Pew.)Smartphone owners now outnumber regular cell phone owners for the first time, according to a new study.

From the March 3, 2012 article in the Boston Globe

This smartphone proliferation has tremendous potential from a public health perspective. When Ispoke with Frank Moss at Bluefin Labs for the story, he described a day when doctors would simultaneously prescribe medicine with an app to help patients better monitor their care (you can read more of Moss’s ideas about mobile health in his New York Times op-ed). When you consider that smartphone penetration is already higher in African American and Latino communities (49 percent in each group vs. a national average of 46 percent) and that these two groups are historically disadvantaged when it comes to accessing health care (just browse the February headline roundup from the Kaiser Family Foundation for examples of these disparities), it would be revolutionary to begin targeting health care apps and devices to these populations.

When we consider looking that the gadgets being pushed into the marketplace to help us monitor our health (many of which I tried while reporting the story) we forget that they’re all targeting ”fairly affluent people,” says Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist who often blogs about public health at Health Populi. “When we look at the burden of chronic disease, it’s the African Americans and Latinos, the poor and less-educated, and very old or very young that don’t have access to healthy food or safe places. These populations have spent as much money on their mobile phones [as the rest of the country], but the platform technology hasn’t penetrated into poor urban areas.”

Sarasohn-Kahn hopes that Medicaid will start developing applications to target these populations, and points to the recent move by a former CDC scientist to develop an asthma inhaler outfitted with GPS and Wifi enabled sensors. When distributed in urban populations, the inhalers allow the doctors to better track their patients, and allow epidemiologists to learn more about the health of these groups. Right now, the smartphones are spreading at a rapid clip through the country. We just need to be smart enough to know how to help them nudge us all toward better health….

March 14, 2012 - Posted by | Public Health | , , , ,

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