Young People's Experiences Using an On-Demand Mobile Health Sexual and Reproductive Health Text Message Intervention in Kenya: Qualitative Study

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2021 Jan 15;9(1):e19109. doi: 10.2196/19109.


Background: Digital health usability assessments can help explain how well mobile health (mHealth) apps targeting young people with sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information performed and whether the intended purpose was achieved. However, few digital health assessments have been conducted to evaluate young people's perceptions regarding mHealth system interactions and content relevance on a wide range of SRH topics. In addition, the majority of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have focused on push messaging platforms; therefore, the mHealth field lacks sufficient RCTs investigating on-demand mHealth SRH platforms.

Objective: The objective of this study was to explore young people's experiences using an on-demand SRH mHealth platform in Kenya.

Methods: We used qualitative data related to the usability of an mHealth platform, Adolescent/Youth Reproductive Mobile Access and Delivery Initiatives for Love and Life Outcome (ARMADILLO), collected at the end of the intervention period. A total of 30 in-depth interviews (IDIs) were held with the intervention participants (15 women and 15 men) to elicit their experiences, opinions, and perspectives on the design and content of the ARMADILLO platform. The study participants were randomly selected from a list of intervention arm participants to participate in the IDIs. The interviews were later transcribed verbatim, translated into English, and coded and analyzed thematically using NVivo version 12 software (QSR International).

Results: Respondents reported varied user experiences and levels of satisfaction, ranging from ease of use by the majority of the respondents to systematic frustrations that prevented some participants from progressing to other stages. Interesting features of the mHealth platform included the immediate response participants received when requesting messages, weekly remunerated quizzes, and perceived ability of educative and informative content and messages to change behaviors. Proposed enhancements to the platform included revising some concepts and words for easy understanding and increasing the interactivity of the platform, whereby young people could seek clarity when they came across difficult terms or had additional questions about the information they received.

Conclusions: The importance of understanding the range of health literacy and technological variations when dealing with young people cannot be overemphasized. Young people, as mHealth end users, must be considered throughout intervention development to achieve optimum functionality. In addition, young people targeted with mHealth SRH interventions must be sensitized to the interactions on mHealth platforms or any other digital health apps if implemented in a nonresearch setting for optimal use by the targeted audience.

Keywords: Kenya; mHealth; mobile phones; sexual and reproductive health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Phone*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Kenya
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Reproductive Health Services / organization & administration
  • Reproductive Health*
  • Telemedicine*
  • Text Messaging*
  • Young Adult