26 February 2015
Several thousand mobile phone apps are available to download to mobile phones for health and fitness. Mobile phones may provide a unique means of administering health interventions to populations.
The purpose of this systematic review was to systematically search and describe the literature on mobile apps used in health behavior interventions, describe the behavioral features and focus of health apps, and to evaluate the potential of apps to disseminate health behavior interventions.
We conducted a review of the literature in September 2014 using key search terms in several relevant scientific journal databases. Only English articles pertaining to health interventions using mobile phone apps were included in the final sample.
The 24 studies identified for this review were primarily feasibility and pilot studies of mobile apps with small sample sizes. All studies were informed by behavioral theories or strategies, with self-monitoring as the most common construct. Acceptability of mobile phone apps was high among mobile phone users.
The lack of large sample studies using mobile phone apps may signal a need for additional studies on the potential use of mobile apps to assist individuals in changing their health behaviors. Of these studies, there is early evidence that apps are well received by users. Based on available research, mobile apps may be considered a feasible and acceptable means of administering health interventions, but a greater number of studies and more rigorous research and evaluations are needed to determine efficacy and establish evidence for best practices.