All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Mieke B Thomeer McBride

Advisory Committee Members

Cullen Clark

Joseph D Wolfe

Kristine R Hearld

Eta Berner Weiss

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2019

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

The rapid development of mobile health (mHealth) technologies is propelled by the culture of disease prevention and management. Smartphone applications and wearable devices provide valuable personal data for self enhancement. In addition to health promotion, people with chronic conditions are using apps and devices to monitor symptoms and behaviors. There is great potential for self-tracking practices to reduce health care cost and improve population health. However, the emphasis on personal responsibility of individuals’ health may hinder the long-term effectiveness of self-tracking practices. The purpose of the study is to examine the associations between social contexts and self-tracking practices, chronic health variables and self-tracking practices, and the mediation between chronic health variables and self-tracking practices via online social support. Drawing on the Health Lifestyles Paradigm and the Fundamental Causes Theory, social contexts are what shape health behaviors. Understanding the correlations between social contexts and self-tracking practices will help to develop more effective strategies on both disease prevention and management. Using data from the 2017 and 2018 Health Information National Trends Survey, the results indicate age, gender, race and education are associated with using apps to track progress on a health-related goal, while income and education are associated with using devices to track progress on a health-related goal. In terms of chronic conditions, those with diabetes are more likely to have used apps to track progress on a health-related goal than those without chronic conditions, while both number of chronic conditions and each chronic condition are positively associated with using devices to track progress on a health-related goal. Online social support (sharing on social media and online support groups) partially mediates the association between number of chronic conditions and using devices to track. The study shows that older adults and socioeconomically underprivileged people are less likely to engage in self-tracking practices, which may further increase health disparities by age and socioeconomic status. As people with chronic conditions are more likely to use tracking apps and devices than those with no chronic condition, developing mHealth technologies that are effective in the long run has the potential to reduce chronic disease burden.

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