Background: Physicians have limited time for weight-loss counseling, and there is a lack of resources to which they can refer patients for assistance with weight loss. Weight-loss mobile applications (apps) have the potential to be a helpful tool, but the extent to which they include the behavioral strategies included in evidence-based interventions is unknown.
Purpose: The primary aims of the study were to determine the degree to which commercial weight-loss mobile apps include the behavioral strategies included in evidence-based weight-loss interventions, and to identify features that enhance behavioral strategies via technology.
Methods: Thirty weight-loss mobile apps, available on iPhone and/or Android platforms, were coded for whether they included any of 20 behavioral strategies derived from an evidence-based weight-loss program (i.e., Diabetes Prevention Program). Data on available apps were collected in January 2012; data were analyzed in June 2012.
Results: The apps included on average 18.83% (SD=13.24; range=0%-65%) of the 20 strategies. Seven of the strategies were not found in any app. The most common technology-enhanced features were barcode scanners (56.7%) and a social network (46.7%).
Conclusions: Weight-loss mobile apps typically included only a minority of the behavioral strategies found in evidence-based weight-loss interventions. Behavioral strategies that help improve motivation, reduce stress, and assist with problem solving were missing across apps. Inclusion of additional strategies could make apps more helpful to users who have motivational challenges.
© 2013 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.