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Health Professions


Background: The proportion of people in the United States who are members of at least two ethnic groups is projected to increase to 10% by the year 2050. This makes addressing health disparities and health inequities in minority populations increasingly more difficult. Minority populations, including those who classify themselves as African American and Hispanic, are using mobile phones to access health information via the internet more frequently than those who classify themselves as white, providing unique opportunities for those in public health and health education to reach these traditionally underserved populations using mobile health (mHealth) interventions.

Objective: The objective of this review was to assess studies conducted in the United States that have used mHealth tools and strategies to develop and implement interventions in underserved populations. This review also examines the ways in which mHealth strategies are being employed in public health interventions to these priority population groups, as mobile phone capabilities include text messaging, mobile apps, internet access, emails, video streaming, social media, instant messaging, and more.

Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted using key search phrases, the matrix method, and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses flowchart diagram to identify key studies conducted between the years of 2009-2016 in the United States. These studies were reviewed for their use of mHealth interventions in historically underserved and minority populations.

Results: A total of 16,270 articles were initially identified using key search phrases in three databases. Titles were reviewed and articles not meeting criteria were excluded, leaving 156 articles for further review. After additional review for relevance and inclusion criteria, 16 articles were qualified and analyzed.

Conclusions: mHealth is a promising area of development for public health and health education. While successful research has been done using text messaging (short message service, SMS) and other mHealth strategies, there is a need for more research using mobile phones and tablet applications. This literature review demonstrates mHealth technology has the ability to increase prevention and health education in health disparate communities and concludes that more specified research is needed.


Published by JMIR mHealth and uHealth at 10.2196/mhealth.8383.

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JMIR Publications





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