Mobile apps for pediatric obesity prevention and treatment, healthy eating, and physical activity promotion: just fun and games?

Transl Behav Med. 2013 Sep;3(3):320-5. doi: 10.1007/s13142-013-0206-3.


Mobile applications (apps) offer a novel way to engage children in behavior change, but little is known about content of commercially available apps for this population. We analyzed the content of apps for iPhone/iPad for pediatric weight loss, healthy eating (HE), and physical activity (PA). Fifty-seven apps were downloaded and tested by two independent raters. Apps were coded for: inclusion of the Expert Committee for Pediatric Obesity Prevention's (ECPOP) eight recommended strategies (e.g., set goals) and seven behavioral targets (e.g., do ≥1 h of PA per day), utilization of gaming elements, and general characteristics. Most apps lacked any expert recommendations (n = 35, 61.4 %). The mean number of recommendations among apps that used recommendations was 3.6 ± 2.7 out of 15, 56.1 % (n = 32) apps were classified as games, and mean price per app was $1.05 ± 1.66. Most apps reviewed lacked expert recommendations and could be strengthened by addition of comprehensive information about health behavior change and opportunities for goal setting.

Keywords: Childhood; Mobile apps; Mobile health; Overweight; Pediatric obesity.