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      Usability and Feasibility of a Smartphone App to Assess Human Behavioral Factors Associated with Tick Exposure (The Tick App): Quantitative and Qualitative Study

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          Mobile health (mHealth) technology takes advantage of smartphone features to turn them into research tools, with the potential to reach a larger section of the population in a cost-effective manner, compared with traditional epidemiological methods. Although mHealth apps have been widely implemented in chronic diseases and psychology, their potential use in the research of vector-borne diseases has not yet been fully exploited.


          This study aimed to assess the usability and feasibility of The Tick App, the first tick research–focused app in the United States.


          The Tick App was designed as a survey tool to collect data on human behaviors and movements associated with tick exposure while engaging users in tick identification and reporting. It consists of an enrollment survey to identify general risk factors, daily surveys to collect data on human activities and tick encounters (Tick Diaries), a survey to enter the details of tick encounters coupled with tick identification services provided by the research team (Report a Tick), and educational material. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, we evaluated the enrollment strategy (passive vs active), the user profile, location, longitudinal use of its features, and users’ feedback.


          Between May and September 2018, 1468 adult users enrolled in the app. The Tick App users were equally represented across genders and evenly distributed across age groups. Most users owned a pet (65.94%, 962/1459; P<.001), did frequent outdoor activities (recreational or peridomestic; 75.24%, 1094/1454; P<.001 and 64.58%, 941/1457; P<.001, respectively), and lived in the Midwest (56.55%, 824/1457) and Northeast (33.0%, 481/1457) regions in the United States, more specifically in Wisconsin, southern New York, and New Jersey. Users lived more frequently in high-incidence counties for Lyme disease (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 3.5, 95% CI 1.8-7.2; P<.001) and in counties with cases recently increasing (IRR 1.8, 95% CI 1.1-3.2; P=.03). Recurring users (49.25%, 723/1468) had a similar demographic profile to all users but participated in outdoor activities more frequently (80.5%, 575/714; P<.01). The number of Tick Diaries submitted per user (median 2, interquartile range [IQR] 1-11) was higher for older age groups (aged >55 years; IRR 3.4, 95% CI 1.5-7.6; P<.001) and lower in the Northeast (IRR[NE] 0.4, 95% CI 0.3-0.7; P<.001), whereas the number of tick reports (median 1, IQR 1-2) increased with the frequency of outdoor activities (IRR 1.5, 95% CI 1.3-1.8; P<.001).


          This assessment allowed us to identify what fraction of the population used The Tick App and how it was used during a pilot phase. This information will be used to improve future iterations of The Tick App and tailor potential tick prevention interventions to the users’ characteristics.

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          The behaviour change wheel: A new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions

          Background Improving the design and implementation of evidence-based practice depends on successful behaviour change interventions. This requires an appropriate method for characterising interventions and linking them to an analysis of the targeted behaviour. There exists a plethora of frameworks of behaviour change interventions, but it is not clear how well they serve this purpose. This paper evaluates these frameworks, and develops and evaluates a new framework aimed at overcoming their limitations. Methods A systematic search of electronic databases and consultation with behaviour change experts were used to identify frameworks of behaviour change interventions. These were evaluated according to three criteria: comprehensiveness, coherence, and a clear link to an overarching model of behaviour. A new framework was developed to meet these criteria. The reliability with which it could be applied was examined in two domains of behaviour change: tobacco control and obesity. Results Nineteen frameworks were identified covering nine intervention functions and seven policy categories that could enable those interventions. None of the frameworks reviewed covered the full range of intervention functions or policies, and only a minority met the criteria of coherence or linkage to a model of behaviour. At the centre of a proposed new framework is a 'behaviour system' involving three essential conditions: capability, opportunity, and motivation (what we term the 'COM-B system'). This forms the hub of a 'behaviour change wheel' (BCW) around which are positioned the nine intervention functions aimed at addressing deficits in one or more of these conditions; around this are placed seven categories of policy that could enable those interventions to occur. The BCW was used reliably to characterise interventions within the English Department of Health's 2010 tobacco control strategy and the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence's guidance on reducing obesity. Conclusions Interventions and policies to change behaviour can be usefully characterised by means of a BCW comprising: a 'behaviour system' at the hub, encircled by intervention functions and then by policy categories. Research is needed to establish how far the BCW can lead to more efficient design of effective interventions.
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            Regression Models for Count Data inR

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              A Systematic Review of Healthcare Applications for Smartphones

              Background Advanced mobile communications and portable computation are now combined in handheld devices called “smartphones”, which are also capable of running third-party software. The number of smartphone users is growing rapidly, including among healthcare professionals. The purpose of this study was to classify smartphone-based healthcare technologies as discussed in academic literature according to their functionalities, and summarize articles in each category. Methods In April 2011, MEDLINE was searched to identify articles that discussed the design, development, evaluation, or use of smartphone-based software for healthcare professionals, medical or nursing students, or patients. A total of 55 articles discussing 83 applications were selected for this study from 2,894 articles initially obtained from the MEDLINE searches. Results A total of 83 applications were documented: 57 applications for healthcare professionals focusing on disease diagnosis (21), drug reference (6), medical calculators (8), literature search (6), clinical communication (3), Hospital Information System (HIS) client applications (4), medical training (2) and general healthcare applications (7); 11 applications for medical or nursing students focusing on medical education; and 15 applications for patients focusing on disease management with chronic illness (6), ENT-related (4), fall-related (3), and two other conditions (2). The disease diagnosis, drug reference, and medical calculator applications were reported as most useful by healthcare professionals and medical or nursing students. Conclusions Many medical applications for smartphones have been developed and widely used by health professionals and patients. The use of smartphones is getting more attention in healthcare day by day. Medical applications make smartphones useful tools in the practice of evidence-based medicine at the point of care, in addition to their use in mobile clinical communication. Also, smartphones can play a very important role in patient education, disease self-management, and remote monitoring of patients.

                Author and article information

                JMIR Mhealth Uhealth
                JMIR Mhealth Uhealth
                JMIR mHealth and uHealth
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                October 2019
                24 October 2019
                : 7
                : 10
                [1 ] Earth Institute Columbia University New York City, NY United States
                [2 ] Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology Columbia University New York, NY United States
                [3 ] Department of Entomology University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI United States
                [4 ] Center for Health Enhancement System Studies University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI United States
                [5 ] Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Michigan State University East Lansing, MI United States
                [6 ] Department of Pathobiological Sciences University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI United States
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Maria A Diuk-Wasser mad2256@
                ©Maria P Fernandez, Gebbiena M. Bron, Pallavi A Kache, Scott R Larson, Adam Maus, David Gustafson Jr, Jean I Tsao, Lyric C Bartholomay, Susan M Paskewitz, Maria A Diuk-Wasser. Originally published in JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth (, 24.10.2019.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR mhealth and uhealth, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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