Mobile phone use is constantly on a rise all over the world. There are more than four billion mobile phone subscribers globally, two-thirds of them in developing countries, with the fastest growth on the African continent. Public health deals with a large population and mobile communication is a very effective tool to reach a large number of people at the same time. Timely, accessible and credible health information is critical for improving public health outcomes, whether to help people take action during an outbreak or to prevent illness. Mobile phones are more widely used and are more affordable than smart phones and computers.
According to Pew Research:
- 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of those own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
- One in four teens (23%) have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
- Nine in ten (93%) teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
Since a large number of teens (78%) are using cell phones, mobile communication, through text messaging, is being utilized in various public health programes to promote youth health and wellness.
3 top applications of mobile communications in youth public health are:
1-Email and text messages can help young people eat more fruit and vegetables: There was a study carried out in the University of Western Australia which showed that text messages and emails can be used to improve the eating habits of younger adults. The study found that suggestions based on positive eating habits improved their fruit and vegetable consumption, and that both email and text messages were equally effective. Suggestions to increase consumption included things as simple as moving the fruit bowl to the center of the dining table and putting fruit and vegetables at the front of the fridge. There was a considerable change in their eating habits by the end of the study.
2-Stop My Smoking USA, a text messaging-based smoking cessation program for young adults.
Young adults were invited to complete a short text messaging survey and then were asked to complete a longer online survey. The positive tone of program messages was the most commonly noted program strength. Suggested improvements included more social connectivity and additional assistance overcoming stressful situations.
Guy to Guy is a text messaging-based health education program specifically for adolescent guys. The program is designed to help adolescent guys improve their health. Text messages focus on a variety of health topics and can include messages on developing an exercise plan, improving your diet, building self-esteem, and healthy romantic relationships.
All these 3 issues have a great importance in the health of our youth. Using mobile technology to get the message out to our youth about these issues, in addition to others of course, has an important role in public health!