Are Smartphones Making Blacks More Health Smart?

African-Americans are more likely to use health apps.

Posted: 11/14/2012 09:24 AM EST

Whether it’s for tracking or learning about weight loss to sexual health, there really is an app for that. And, according to a new study, it seems that more Americans, including African-Americans, are downloading them and relying on them for information.

 

Today, 31 percent of people who own cell phones have used their phones to access information about health, compared to 17 percent two years ago, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Mobile Health 2012 survey. Roughly 11 percent of all mobile phone users and 19 percent of smartphone users have at least one health app on their device. African-Americans and Latinos 18-49 years old and people with college degrees were more likely to find this information that way.

 

More good news: Despite African-Americans disproportionately suffering from chronic health issues, we were more likely to use health apps than anyone else (21 percent), with white Americans coming in second with 19 percent and Latinos at 15 percent. And we were also more likely to receive texts or alerts about health (11 percent) compared to whites and Latinos. As well, our use of mobile phones for a range of health information almost doubled in the past two years, up from 19 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2012.

 

But accessing information isn’t enough — the key is what we do with the information once we consume it. The study found that 29 percent of all respondents changed their current behavior or achieved goals, whether it was losing weight, getting pregnant or quitting smoking.

 

Knowing better really can mean doing better.

 

Other findings included:

 

—Women between the ages of 30 and 64 and smartphone owners are more likely than other cell phone owners to have signed up for health text alerts.

 

—While 80 percent of phone owners say they send and receive texts, only nine percent received any text updates or alerts about health or medical issues.

 

—The most popular apps were fitness and wellness: 38 percent used apps to track exercise, fitness or heart rate; 31 percent for diet or food; and 12 percent for just weight. Coming in last were apps for menstrual and ovulation cycle (7 percent) and blood pressure (5 percent). “Mobile seems to increase people’s likelihood to participate,” Pew’s Associate Director Susannah Fox told MobilHealthNews. “It’s the smartphone owners that I ended up really focusing on in the analysis, because they’re so much more likely to use [their devices] to access health information.”

 

But why are we so interested in using our mobiles for health info?

 

Unfortunately, the survey doesn’t provide the “Why,” it only provides the “What.” But perhaps we are so drawn to seeking medical information because we feel so disconnected from the health care system. Another reason may be because of how glued into technology African-Americans are.

 

A 2011 Northwestern University report found that, on average, Black youth spend 12 hours and 59 minutes plugged in — either in front of the television, online on a mobile device or playing video games. That’s four hours more than their white counterparts. Also, a 2011 Pew Internet study found that African Americans in general are more likely to access the mobile Internet than other races.

 

 

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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