Content and Quality of Infant Feeding Smartphone Apps: Five-Year Update on a Systematic Search and Evaluation.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 2020, 8, (5), pp. e17300
Issue Date:
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BACKGROUND:Parents use apps to access information on child health, but there are no standards for providing evidence-based advice, support, and information. Well-developed apps that promote appropriate infant feeding and play can support healthy growth and development. A 2015 systematic assessment of smartphone apps in Australia about infant feeding and play found that most apps had minimal information, with poor readability and app quality. OBJECTIVE:This study aimed to systematically evaluate the information and quality of smartphone apps providing information on breastfeeding, formula feeding, introducing solids, or infant play for consumers. METHODS:The Google Play store and Apple App Store were searched for free and paid Android and iPhone Operating System (iOS) apps using keywords for infant feeding, breastfeeding, formula feeding, and tummy time. The apps were evaluated between September 2018 and January 2019 for information content based on Australian guidelines, app quality using the 5-point Mobile App Rating Scale, readability, and suitability of health information. RESULTS:A total of 2196 unique apps were found and screened. Overall, 47 apps were evaluated, totaling 59 evaluations for apps across both the Android and iOS platforms. In all, 11 apps had affiliations to universities and health services as app developers, writers, or editors. Furthermore, 33 apps were commercially developed. The information contained within the apps was poor: 64% (38/59) of the evaluations found no or low coverage of information found in the Australian guidelines on infant feeding and activity, and 53% (31/59) of the evaluations found incomplete or incorrect information with regard to the depth of information provided. Subjective app assessment by health care practitioners on whether they would use, purchase, or recommend the app ranged from poor to acceptable (median 2.50). Objective assessment of the apps' engagement, functionality, aesthetics, and information was scored as acceptable (median 3.63). The median readability score for the apps was at the American Grade 8 reading level. The suitability of health information was rated superior or adequate for content, reading demand, layout, and interaction with the readers. CONCLUSIONS:The quality of smartphone apps on infant feeding and activity was moderate based on the objective measurements of engagement, functionality, aesthetics, and information from a reliable source. The overall quality of information on infant feeding and activity was poor, indicated by low coverage of topics and incomplete or partially complete information. The key areas for improvement involved providing evidence-based information consistent with the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council's Infant Feeding Guidelines. Apps supported and developed by health care professionals with adequate health service funding can ensure that parents are provided with credible and reliable resources.
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