Health and wellness technology use by historically underserved health consumers: systematic review

J Med Internet Res. 2012 May 31;14(3):e78. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2095.


Background: The implementation of health technology is a national priority in the United States and widely discussed in the literature. However, literature about the use of this technology by historically underserved populations is limited. Information on culturally informed health and wellness technology and the use of these technologies to reduce health disparities facing historically underserved populations in the United States is sparse in the literature.

Objective: To examine ways in which technology is being used by historically underserved populations to decrease health disparities through facilitating or improving health care access and health and wellness outcomes.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review in four library databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Engineering Village) to investigate the use of technology by historically underserved populations. Search strings consisted of three topics (eg, technology, historically underserved populations, and health).

Results: A total of 424 search phrases applied in the four databases returned 16,108 papers. After review, 125 papers met the selection criteria. Within the selected papers, 30 types of technology, 19 historically underserved groups, and 23 health issues were discussed. Further, almost half of the papers (62 papers) examined the use of technology to create effective and culturally informed interventions or educational tools. Finally, 12 evaluation techniques were used to assess the technology.

Conclusions: While the reviewed studies show how technology can be used to positively affect the health of historically underserved populations, the technology must be tailored toward the intended population, as personally relevant and contextually situated health technology is more likely than broader technology to create behavior changes. Social media, cell phones, and videotapes are types of technology that should be used more often in the future. Further, culturally informed health information technology should be used more for chronic diseases and disease management, as it is an innovative way to provide holistic care and reminders to otherwise underserved populations. Additionally, design processes should be stated regularly so that best practices can be created. Finally, the evaluation process should be standardized to create a benchmark for culturally informed health information technology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Medically Underserved Area*