Health theory in mobile technology apps supporting young people’s long-term condition/s management: a systematic review
Background Prevalence of long-term conditions is rising in young people. Mobile technologies featuring software program applications or ‘apps’ are well used by young people for social networking and gaming. Apps are being increasingly utilized in health contexts. This systematic review’s objective was to assess the effectiveness of smartphone and tablet apps in supporting young people’s management of their physical long-term condition/s. Methods The search strategy combined indexed and free-text terms. Two reviewers independently searched hits generated from five bibliographical databases and identified articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Data extraction and quality assessment tools facilitated consistent analysis and synthesis. Inter-rater-reliability was assessed. Findings The search returned 1120 hits; four articles were included (one pilot randomized-controlled-trial and three quasi-experimental studies) with a combined sample size of 46. Apps were aimed at diabetes (n=2), asthma and cancer management. Further heterogeneity e.g. outcome measures and follow-up times prevented meta-analysis. Health psychology models were notable by their absence, with only one app reporting theoretical underpinning. Discussion The disparity between the volume of health apps available and the sub-set based on empirical evidence is of concern.