Background: Young people living with type 1 diabetes face not only the challenges typical of adolescence, but also the challenges of daily management of their health and evolving understanding of the impact of their diagnosis on their future. Adolescence is a critical time for diabetes self-management, with a typical decline in glycemic control increasing risk for microvascular diabetes complications. To improve glycemic control, there is a need for evidence-based self-management support interventions that address the issues pertinent to this population, utilizing platforms that engage them. Increasingly, mobile health (mHealth) interventions are being developed and evaluated for this purpose with some evidence supporting improved glycemic control. A necessary step to enhance effectiveness of such approaches is to understand young people’s preferences for this mode of delivery.
Objective: A cross-sectional survey was conducted to investigate the current and perceived roles of mHealth in supporting young people to manage their diabetes.
Methods: Young adults (16-24 years) with type 1 diabetes in Auckland, New Zealand, were invited to take part in a survey via letter from their diabetes specialist.
Results: A total of 115 young adults completed the survey (mean age 19.5 years; male 52/115, 45%; European 89/115, 77%), with all reporting they owned a mobile phone and 96% (110/115) of those were smartphones. However, smartphone apps for diabetes management had been used by only 33% (38/115) of respondents. The most commonly reported reason for not using apps was a lack of awareness that they existed. Although the majority felt they managed their diabetes well, 63% (72/115) reported wanting to learn more about diabetes and how to manage it. A total of 64% (74/115) respondents reported that they would be interested in receiving diabetes self-management support via text message (short message service, SMS).
Conclusions: Current engagement with mHealth in this population appears low, although the findings from this study provide support for the use of mHealth in this group because of the ubiquity and convenience of mobile devices. mHealth has potential to provide information and support to this population, utilizing mediums commonplace for this group and with greater reach than traditional methods.