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Title: The public health potential of mobile applications to increase physical activity
Author: Bondaronek, Paulina
ISNI:       0000 0004 9353 5062
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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Background: Physical activity (PA) is an important behavioural determinant of morbidity and mortality and is a public health priority. The accessibility, convenience and wide reach of mobile applications (apps) makes these digital interventions a potential mode for delivering PA interventions at scale. At the end of 2017 there were 325,000 health apps available publicly, with “fitness” apps being the largest category of all health apps. However, most apps on the market have not been evaluated and little is known about their quality. Aim: This PhD investigated the public health potential of publicly available PA apps. Methods: The following studies were conducted: 1) a review and content analysis of the most popular PA apps on the market to assess their quality, defined as safety, likely efficacy and positive user experience; 2) a study using regression models to determine the association between popularity and quality of those apps; 3) a feasibility crossover trial assessing two apps for increasing PA; and 4) a qualitative study assessing the acceptability of the trial procedures and exploring the experiences of the two PA apps. Results: Popular apps had high usability but there were issues around their safety and likely efficacy. Popularity was not associated with likely efficacy. The feasibility trial and the qualitative study showed that such a trial would be feasible and acceptable to participants. The enablers and barriers to increasing exercise using the apps were identified. Conclusion: The discrepancy between quality and popularity represents a missed opportunity for behaviour change interventions. Hence, the public health impact of PA apps is unlikely to be achieved when market forces “prescribe” what is used by the public. The motivation to use the apps varied substantially and it is important to identify when, for whom, and in what context PA apps are most likely to facilitate behaviour change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available