Digital Health Science Digest: Issue 14

Posted | Posted in Digital Health Science Digest

New apps (and new ideas for existing apps) that save lives! Is digital health widening health disparities, or can digital health close them? Both perspectives and more in this week’s Digest! 

The Digital Health Science Digest is a bimonthly newsletter compiled by Duke Digital Health. We bring you the most interesting research publications, policy news, and other fun digital health science stuff.  

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Issue 14



  • For the first time in its new guidelines, the American Heart Association endorsed mobile alert systems to encourage bystander CPR. PulsePoint is a free app that alerts CPR-trained volunteers when someone nearby goes into cardiac arrest. Curious about bystander CPR? Check out our recent blog post about it. 
  • The township of Evesham, NJ is partnering with Uber to offer its residents free rides home when they’ve had too much to drink. When it piloted the program in September, there was a 65% drop in the number of drunk driving arrests. Yay for apps keeping people safe! 


  • Researchers at Vanderbilt University looked at adoption of a web-based EHR patient portal by sociodemographic characteristics. They found that those who were older, African-American, on Medicaid, and who had lower household income levels accessed the portal less frequently than their white, younger, more affluent counterparts. Given what we know about device ownership and Internet access, this paper serves as a good reminder that medium matters. 
  • corded-phone

    …and in case you needed another reminder, here you go! Researchers at Duke Digital Health analyzed engagement in a weight loss intervention among medically vulnerable adults. Participants chose to self-monitor either via a website or automated calls (IVR). The majority of participants (61%) chose IVR, and over half of those who selected the web switched midway through to IVR (56%). No participants switched from IVR to web. In addition, the decline in self-monitoring was greater among those who chose the web than among those who used IVR. 

  • A series of pilot studies that delivered lifestyle interventions via social media showed promising preliminary results. Researchers found that private weight loss groups on Twitter can be useful, feasible adjuncts to or stand-ins for, in-person group sessions. In addition, they can facilitate modest weight loss, though more research is needed. 
  • A recently published systematic review of mhealth behavior change interventions for cardiovascular disease self-management found that interventions can be effective at improving medication adherence and physical activity. Text messaging interventions seemed to be most effective, but no clear relationships could be determined between dose, duration, or behavior change techniques targeted. 


  • The UK signed a ‘responsibility deal’ with various food industry players (food companies, supermarkets, and chain restaurants) in 2012. The deal was a series of voluntary pledges to do their part to help Britons eat less. However, a recent study funded by the government found that it has had little effect on health. 
  • Urban planning policies can have a huge impact on residents’ health, both physical and mental. Sometimes those impacts can be harmful. This is an argument in Dr. Mindy Fullilove’s book, Urban Alchemy. Durham’s Spirit House is hosting a citywide book study of Urban Alchemy. In a blog post this week, we talk about how technology can help heal cities.


  • Couldn’t join us for this week’s mHealth@Duke event, Getting Started at a Startup? Check out our recap of the event to find out what you missed!
  • Save the Date! The mHealth@Duke Conference will be April 20, 2016.

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