With a large majority of poor urban women having access to cellphones, the device can be used to improve the health of those at risk of diabetes and other diseases during their childbearing years, says a new study.
In the survey of a diverse group of almost 250 young, low-income, inner-city pregnant and postpartum women, the researchers found that more than 90 percent use smartphones or regular cellphones to give and get information.
"Pinning down which technologies the at-risk women use is a key step in finding how to improve health in the inner city," said study senior author Wendy Bennett, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The findings, published in the Journal of Internet Medicine Research, suggest that public health care services can reach poor urban women through personalised cellphone and internet-based approaches.
Previous studies had shown that many of these women do not return for obstetric or preventive health visits after delivery.
"Pregnancy and the year after delivery -- when women must see a doctor -- give us a window of opportunity to lock in lifelong preventive health behaviours for them and their families," Bennett said.
"But these opportunities are often missed because many women do not return for care or stay engaged with providers. If we could better understand their use of information and communication technology, we could likely design more appropriate, culturally sensitive ways to reach and help them," Bennett added.
"Our study highlights the potential for Internet and communication technology where individuals may have multiple ways of reaching out for health information, rather than through a primary care provider alone," first author of the new study Nymisha Chilukuri from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said.