mHealth for mental health in the Middle East: Need, technology use, and readiness among Palestinians in the West Bank

Asian J Psychiatr. 2017 Jun;27:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ajp.2017.02.010. Epub 2017 Feb 14.

Abstract

Palestinians in the West Bank are at heightened risk for mental health problems. Limited availability of clinicians and a host of geopolitical, topographical, and infrastructural challenges create significant regional barriers to clinic-based care. The objective of this study was to examine whether mHealth approaches that leverage mobile phones for remote mental health treatment may be viable alternatives. We surveyed 272 Palestinian adults in urban, rural, and refugee camp settings. Most participants (93.4%) reported owning mobile phones. The penetration of mobile devices was high across all study sites. Males and females did not differ in their access to this resource. Among mobile phone owners, 79.9% had smartphones, 32.2% had basic mobile phones, and 12.2% owned both. Respondents reported having reliable access to electricity (99.6%) and Wi-Fi (80.9%). Almost all mobile phone owners (99.6%) reported using social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter. When asked to estimate the prevalence of mental health problems in the region, 61.4% of participants reported that over half of the people in their communities struggled with depression, posttraumatic stress, or auditory hallucinations. Most participants indicated that they would personally be interested in mHealth for Mental Health options such as bi-directional texting with clinicians (68.8%), smartphone applications (66.5%), unidirectional support texts (64.7%), or web-based interventions (64.0%). Given the Palestinian populations' broad access to technology and technological infrastructure, need for care, and openness to engage in mobile interventions, mHealth should be considered a promising strategy for mental health services in the West Bank.

Keywords: Arab world; Health technology; Mobile phone; Telemedicine; eHealth.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arabs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cell Phone Use / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Medical Informatics Applications*
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Refugee Camps / statistics & numerical data
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Telemedicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data