Global health conversations

Written by Austin Smarch, masters of public health student, University of Michigan and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program.

The global health conversation hosted by Dr. Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, associate professor of psychiatry, focused on a paper that discussed the world of mHealth (mobile health) apps; how many exist, how they’re evaluated, and how they’re recommended. In addition to the article, Dr. Cavazos-Rehg discussed her lab’s current work involving novel outreach through social media with the intent to eventually develop informed mHealth apps.

As our group discussed Dr. Cavazos-Rehg’s innovative approaches and the current mHealth climate, the intricacies of these modern forms of healthcare became apparent. In the United States, access to smartphones and other mobile technology is becoming very common. Chronic conditions are becoming the most common health problems. This has produced an ever-growing need for access to care. mHealth apps have the opportunity to fill some of the voids in healthcare, but evaluation and monitoring must become commonplace. With over 165,000 apps available for download, how can one be sure the app they’re using is beneficial? Involving clinicians, patients, policymakers, and experts in various fields in the development process of mHealth apps would allow for these apps to be both informed and effective for the individuals that needs this support.

The evaluation and monitoring of these apps could improve the safety and effectiveness of available apps, but one must wonder how it would affect the creative process. Do we sacrifice the fast-paced production of potentially beneficial apps and therapies for a slower, more regulated process? In this continually evolving world, would a regulatory system be able to keep up with the needs and problems that apps could address? The future of mHealth is uncertain, but the potential benefits are plentiful. As one walks down the unlit path of future healthcare, collaborative efforts will be what light the way to progress.