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Currently accepted at: JMIR mHealth and uHealth

Date Submitted: Aug 17, 2017
Date Accepted: Oct 29, 2017
(closed for review but you can still tweet)

This paper has been accepted and is currently in production.

It will appear shortly on 10.2196/mhealth.8764

The final accepted version (not copyedited yet) is in this tab.

The final, peer-reviewed published version of this preprint can be found here:

How Do Infant Feeding Apps in China Measure Up? A Content Quality Assessment

Zhao J, Freeman B, Li M

How Do Infant Feeding Apps in China Measure Up? A Content Quality Assessment

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2017;5(12):e186

DOI: 10.2196/mhealth.8764

PMID: 29212627

PMCID: 5738546

How Do Infant Feeding Apps in China Measure Up? A Content Quality Assessment

  • Jing Zhao; 
  • Becky Freeman; 
  • Mu Li

ABSTRACT

Background:

Globally, with the popularization of mobile phones, the number of health-related mobile phone apps has skyrocketed to 259,000 in 2016. In the digital era, people are accessing health information through their fingertips. In China, there are several apps that claim to provide infant feeding and nutrition guidance. However, the quality of information in those apps has not been extensively assessed.

Objective:

We aimed to assess the quality of Chinese infant feeding apps using comprehensive quality assessment criteria and to explore Chinese mothers’ perceptions on apps’ quality and usability.

Methods:

We searched for free-to-download Chinese infant feeding apps in the iTunes and Android App Stores. We conducted a comprehensive assessment of the accountability, scientific basis, accuracy of information relevant to infant feeding, advertising policy, and functionality and carried out a preliminary screening of infant formula advertisements in the apps. In addition, we also conducted exploratory qualitative research through semistructured interviews with Chinese mothers in Shanghai to elicit their views about the quality of apps.

Results:

A total of 4925 apps were screened, and 26 apps that met the selection criteria were evaluated. All 26 apps were developed by commercial entities, and the majority of them were rated poorly. The highest total score was 62.2 (out of approximately 100) and the lowest was 16.7. In the four quality domains assessed, none of them fulfilled all the accountability criteria. Three out of 26 apps provided information covering the three practices from the World Health Organization’s infant feeding recommendations. Only one app described its advertising policy in its terms of usage. The most common app functionality was a built-in social forum (19/26). Provision of a website link was the least common functionality (2/26). A total of 20 out of 26 apps promoted infant formula banner advertisements on their homepages. In addition, 12 apps included both e-commerce stores and featured infant formula advertisements. In total, 21 mothers were interviewed face-to-face. Mothers highly valued immediate access to parenting information and multifunctionality provided by apps. However, concerns regarding incredible information and commercial activities in apps, as well as the desire for information and support offered by health care professionals were expressed.

Conclusions:

The findings provide valuable information on Chinese infant feeding apps. The results are concerning, particularly with the relative absence of scientific basis and credibility and the large number of commercial advertisements that are displayed. Apps do seem to be able to provide an opportunity for mothers to access health information and support; it is time for tighter controls on content and advertisements. Ongoing app research and development should focus on implementation of a standard framework, which would drive the development of high-quality apps to support healthy infant feeding through cooperation among academics, health professionals, app users, app developers, and government bodies.


 Citation

Please cite as:

Zhao J, Freeman B, Li M

How Do Infant Feeding Apps in China Measure Up? A Content Quality Assessment

JMIR mHealth and uHealth. (forthcoming/in press)

DOI: 10.2196/mhealth.8764

URL: https://preprints.jmir.org/preprint/8764

PMID: 29212627

PMCID: 5738546

Per the author's request the PDF is not available.