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Mobile Health Apps See Weak Adoption Rates

African Americans, younger people, and urban residents are most likely to used software to track their health, nutrition, and fitness, finds Pew Research Center.

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As health data increasingly populates mobile phones, a new study from the Pew Research Center suggests that mobile health applications are accessed more by younger cell phone users than their older counterparts.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project, which is one of seven projects underway at the the Pew Research Center, published the report Tuesday. The survey of American adults, "Mobile Health 2010," was conducted in association with the California HealthCare Foundation.

Among the study's findings are that cell phone users between 18 and 29 years old are more likely than older mobile phone owners to use mobile health apps: 15% do so, compared with 8% of cell phone users ages 30 to 49, for example. African American cell phone owners are more likely than other groups to use such apps: 15% do so, compared with 7% of white and 11% of Latino cell phone users. Urban cell phone owners are more likely than those who live in suburban or rural areas to have a mobile health app on their phone.

The report goes on to list several health-related applications that can be accessed using a mobile phone, including apps for: counting calories and nutrition information; logging fitness workouts; monitoring vital signs; calculating disease risks; measuring body mass index; keeping personal health records; providing health information to physicians and emergency workers; and learning about medicines.

Based on the findings of a daily tracking survey on Americans' use of the Internet, the report's data were collected during telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between August 9 and September 13, 2010. There were 3,001 adults aged 18 and older who participated in the survey.

Of those adults interviewed, 85% use a cell phone; and 17% of that number overall, and 29% of users ages 18 to 29, have used their phone to look up health or medical information. Furthermore, 9% of cell phone owners overall, and 15% of owners ages 18 to 29, have software applications on their phones that help them track or manage their health.

"This means that health information searches and communications have joined the growing array of non-voice data applications that are being bundled into cell phones," the report said. "Even with the proliferation of mobile and online opportunities, however, most adults' search for health information remains anchored in the offline world. Most people turn to a health professional, friend, or family member when they have a health question; the Internet plays a growing but still supplemental role -- and mobile connectivity has not changed that," the report concluded.

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