Great ‘app-eal’ but not there yet: A review of iPhone nutrition applications relevant to child weight management

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Abstract

Aims:

There is increasing interest in the use of smartphone applications (apps) for delivering child obesity management interventions and supporting lifestyle behaviour change; however, there has been very little academic research on their development. Our aim is to review nutrition-related apps designed for children currently available in Australia for their usefulness in education or support behavioural interventions for child obesity.

Methods:

Apps available for download in iTunes Australia between 2 April and 3 June 2013 which were suitable for children >12 years were identified. Key words were chosen to identify apps applicable to children, focusing on nutrition.

Results:

A total of 27 apps were included. Most apps (24/27) were not based on evidence-informed recommendations. A third of apps were developed in the USA (n = 10; 37%) and were free (67%), nine apps required upfront payment, with a mean cost of $A2.80 (range $A0.99–$A7.49). The most common nutrition features were the promotion of energy balance (n = 12 apps) and guidance on appropriate portion size (n = 15). The most common behaviour change feature was goal setting (n = 15). The five apps that scored most highly against the characteristics reviewed were: Calorie Counter Pro by My Net Diary, Weight Watchers, Swap It Don't Stop It, Control My Weight by CalorieKing and Rate What I Ate—Photo Diet Tracker.

Conclusions:

Very few apps were identified that could be used in education or support behavioural interventions for child obesity. There is a need to harness this technology and evaluate the applicability and use within childhood obesity research interventions.

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