Original Article

Development of a mobile phone app to maintain physical activity in African American men: MobileMen

Mary Wyatt, Mary Patton, Steven McClellan, Seema Singh, Bin Wang, Ajay P. Singh


Background: African American men experience health disparities across a number of chronic diseases. mHealth technology is widely utilized to address lifestyle factors that contribute to these conditions. Participation of African American men in qualitative and quantitative studies of mHealth is low. Therefore, little is known regarding the acceptability of mHealth interventions and few interventions have been specifically developed for this population. The purpose of the current study is to describe the development of a smartphone application, MobileMen, to promote the maintenance of physical activity (PA) in African American men and to report on app feasibility when applied to the target population.
Methods: We used a mixed methods study design including formative research, user-centered design, and a feasibility study. Focus groups (n=26) were conducted to inform the acceptability of the app and desired features. Lab usability (n=19) was used to develop the app through an iterative process. A feasibility study was conducted to assess utilization of the app over a 1-month timeframe. Measures of usability and user-friendliness were collected during lab usability sessions. Satisfaction and app usage were collected following the feasibility study.
Results: The focus groups revealed that African American men use smartphone apps and that they are willing to utilize an app to maintain PA habits. The MobileMen app was subsequently developed and contained a dashboard, rewards, a learning component, a prompting system, and activity tracking. Scores increased between the first and last lab sessions for usability [5.0 (0.0) vs. 4.3 (1.0)] and user-friendliness [74.2 (17.0) vs. 70.6 (12.4)]. Participants reported acceptable satisfaction (mean values >3.5 on a 1–5 Likert scale) with most app components.
Conclusions: African American men are willing to utilize mHealth to improve their health behavior, including PA. An initial version of the MobileMen app has been developed that is acceptable and user-friendly. However, there are several components requested by African American men could not be included in the current app but warrant future app development.

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