There is considerable potential for mobile technologies to empower pediatric patients and families by improving their communication with health professionals. National surveys suggest minority parents frequently communicate via mobile technology, but it is uncertain how amenable they are to receiving health care information in this format. Although the low cost and far reach characteristics of mobile health (mHealth) technology makes it advantageous for communication with minority parents, data on acceptance are needed.
The objective of the study was to determine utilization of mobile and Internet technology by African American parents in an urban, underserved population, and to assess their interest in receiving health information via text messaging or other technologies (eg, social media and the Internet).
A survey was administered to parents of children aged 1-12 years covered by public insurance receiving care at 3 pediatric primary care centers in Washington, DC.
The African American sample (N=302) was composed of primarily single (75.8%, 229/302) mothers. Almost half had more than a high school education (47.7%, 144/302) and incomes above US $25,000 per year (43.0%, 130/302). Most (97.0%, 293/302) reported owning a cell phone, of which 91.1% (275/302) used it to text and 78.5% (237/302) used it to access the Internet. Most had service plans with unlimited text and data, but 26.5% (80/302) experienced service interruptions in the previous year. Home Internet access was more prevalent among those with higher income (86.2%, 112/130), but it was still relatively pervasive among lower income families (66.9%, 83/124). In adjusted logistic regression models, African American mothers with income greater than US $25,000 annually were 4 times as likely to own a tablet computer than their lower income counterparts. Of the participants, 80.8% (244/302) used social networking, primarily Facebook, and 74.2% (224/302) were interested in joining a social networking group about a health topic concerning their child. Although relatively few African American mothers (17.9%, 54/302) shared health information via texting, there was strong interest in receiving health information via mobile phones (87.4%, 264/302). There was no significant difference in Internet/mobile device use or interest in using these outlets to send/receive information about their children’s health between parents of healthy children and parents of children with chronic health conditions.
Urban African American parents are active users of the Internet and mobile technology for social interactions, but they are less likely to use it for accessing or communicating health information. However, most parents expressed an interest in receiving health information or utilizing social networking to learn more about health topics. Mobile technology and social networks may be an underutilized method of providing health information to underserved minority populations.