Smart Ways To Use Smart Technology for Public Health


Maybe Smart Phones can’t scan your body for tumors or fractures or palpate for lesions. But they certainly can do a lot. Are non-Smart Phone users missing out?

Trying to stay faithful to my flip phone has been difficult. I have nothing against Smart Phones, but just like the simplicity of my “dumb” phone. However, I find myself gritting my teeth at times such as when I get lost while driving and have to consult a map versus GPS or have to stop at a gas station to ask directions. Similarly, emoticons and picture messages are only theoretical words in my vocabulary like quantum physics and do not show up in messages on my phone. However, despite the shortcomings of my archaic technology, I can still receive public health messages via SMS text. This means that for the 85% of United States citizens that use cell phones, SMS text messaging is a viable and effective way to disseminate health information (even for those people who still have to use T9 like me). As the article mHealth new horizons for health through mobile technologies points out, the main advantages of using SMS messages for health campaigns are their low cost and broad reach.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 4.08.54 PM
However, for those that have access to Smart Phones, a plethora of health information is accessible. The above chart found in an article titled U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015 shows that over 60% of Smart Phone owners used their phone to get info about a health condition. This is a staggeringly high figure. So what is holding me back? Good question. To further explore the benefits of Smart Phones for use in public health, I’ve put together a short list of reasons to join the 21st century.



Top 5 reasons to trade up to a Smart Phone:

#1 – Health Apps. Whether you are interested in dieting or exercise applications, you are sure to find something that fits your needs.

#2 – You probably won’t get lost in the wrong part of town. Stay safe by knowing exactly where you are and where you need to go using your GPS on your Smart Phone.

#3- Quick search options for nearby hospitals, gyms, etc.

#4- Internet access. Whether you are camping and need to quickly learn how to suture a wound using a sewing kit and a Swiss army knife or are at home interested in researching water contamination in your area, being able to hop online from anywhere is an amazing tool.

#5- They may actually save you money. T-mobile is slowly trying to phase me out and encourage me to upgrade to a Smart Phone by making my monthly rates more expensive than plans for Smart Phones that include data plans. Smart Phones also have hotspots and may allow you to get rid of your internet bill altogether. Not to mention the exorbitant costs associated with international calls/texts on your “dumb” phone.


However, if you are not convinced or for those who don’t have access or cannot make the transition, any mobile phone can be an effective medium for both viewing and disseminating health information. One study cited by showed that appointment reminders sent out via SMS text messages regarding upcoming scheduled doctor visits resulted in a 79.2% attendance rate versus a 35.5% attendance rate for those who did not receive text messages. Other uses include environmental or crime alerts (such as downed power lines or Amber Alerts), encouraging/motivational text subscriptions for people trying to lose weight, reproductive health info with links to websites and hotlines, etc. The list goes on and on and on and on…

So are non-Smart Phone users missing out? Perhaps. However, SMS text messages are an extremely cheap and highly pervasive method for spreading health info. Healthcare has gone mobile and mobile communication tools are making it faster and easier for people to access health information and for public health professionals to target their audience.

So feel free to SMS text me with health updates, just leave out the emoticons, for now… 🙂


2 thoughts on “Smart Ways To Use Smart Technology for Public Health

  1. Really enjoyed your comparison between your “dumb phone” and “smart phone”. It really illustrated for me the vitality of a smartphone. Your visuals are aesthetically pleasing and informative. This post consists of a lot of stimulating information both through text and visuals. Good Job!

  2. The picture at the beginning of the hand x-ray is actually not so far off. We can use our smart phones to look up radiology imaging through Osirix or other tools, and I know there was talk a while back about making your smart phone into a mobile ultrasound machine just with an extra attachment. Healthcare has definitely gone mobile, and I am often intrigued by those who have been able to stave off the switch to the smart phone. You give some compelling reasons to switch though!

    The one thing I have had issues with WordPress is the lack of a dynamic text orientation feature. Unless you start editing the HTML, it’s hard to make the text look interesting, increasing font sizes, positioning, etc. That would be something I would recommend is perhaps look into some basic HTML coding to make some modifications to the text to make it jump off the page.

    Hope you’ve switched to a smart phone by the end of your blog post ;).

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