disease tracking

Mobilizing for Health

Posted by renagreifinger on Nov 19, 2009
Mobilizing for Health data sheet 3937 Views
Rena Greifinger
Publication Date: 
May 2009
Publication Type: 

Mobile phones are becoming prolific in society, both in industrialized and non-industrialized countries. Of all of the developments in new media, mobile is the only one that seems to be narrowing the digital divide rather than widening it, making it a crucial tool in improving the health of poor and hard-to-reach populations. Organizations around the world are beginning to implement mobile technology into their health behavior interventions and are seeing rising success. In diabetes and other chronic disease management, mobile phones are being used for medication alerts and health reporting. The technology is being used to send sexual health and HIV/AIDS information in places like downtown San Francisco and rural Africa, as part of ongoing testing, counseling and prevention services. In the US, applications involving GPS technology, video games, and persuasive technology are all being tested for their effectiveness in influencing health behavior and applicability on mobile phones.


Through published research and interviews with key leaders in the mobile health field, this paper outlines the benefits of mobile technology and the barriers to integrating mobile fully into public health campaigns. Despite the enormous work already being done and a host of new technologies on the rise, most experts will agree that mobile phones on their own will not serve as primary tools for influencing health behavior.  A comprehensive and integrated campaign that incorporates mobile will be most effective, but mobile alone faces too many barriers to fostering social norms on the wide-scale. In fact, many argue that the ways in which public health advocates are able to place health messages in broadcast media cannot be applied on cell phones because of society‚Äôs growing resistance to mobile marketing.


The paper asks: What are some examples of how organizations around the world have harnessed mobile technology to improve the health behavior of disease-specific and target populations? What lies in the future for mobile technology and health? Is mobile the answer we have been looking for?