Health and Wellness

Share mHealth apps to promote Summer Fun Safety

Application Programming Interfaces and the Internet of Things

The lazy, long days of summer are here once again, a time when many people engage in fun outdoor activities. Summer vacations, children out of school, and the warm balmy weather all present opportunity and desire to spend time out in the sun, on the beach or boating, hiking in the forests, trails, deserts, or mountains, and enjoying outdoor adventures. All of these activities are healthy and enjoyable as long as a few safety guidelines are kept in mind: guidelines that nurses often share with the general public, as well as with the patients and families they work with. Of course, the summer of 2020 is also complicated with COVID-19 precautions, social distancing, and situating in place, especially for people who are vulnerable to infection. Many experts support the importance of regular sunshine, fresh air, and outdoor exercise to promote stronger resistance to coronavirus and other diseases, as long as people are sensible and careful.

Almost every report and market analysis support the finding that mHealth is becoming a force to be reckoned with. This wave is unique from other types of health information technology, since the impetus is largely consumer driven. Since so many people already have mobile devices and know how to use them for day to day activities, the demand for and ability to easily use mHealth apps on these devices are growing exponentially.

“An evolving infrastructure has paved the way for mHealth; at the center of this infrastructure are the billions of people from diverse geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds who use wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. Adding to the infrastructure are the more than 318, 000 health applications (apps) available to consumers, with an additional 200 released every day. Although the number of apps for health condition management is increasing rapidly, most health apps are for wellness promotion” (Harrington, 2018, p. 240).

These readily available devices and apps open up a never before known ability to access day to day health and wellness related data and information. Nurses can be key players in this research and in supporting clients to use mobile devices in the safest and most integrated ways. “Co-ordinated efforts by health professionals, health services and societal systems to recommend use of evidence-based apps may increase the use and impact of these interventions” (Grady et al., 2018, p. 118).

Nurses can help people discover and explore mobile apps that effectively convey the information they seek in reliable and engaging ways. Mobile apps that present an obvious user-centered interface design are more likely to be used by people on a regular basis. As McCurdie and colleagues pointed out, successful mHealth designers “employ the user-centered design (UCD) process—an evidence-based approach informed by the needs and understanding of a specific end-user group. In our experience, designing mHealth and other apps, UCD plays a key role in achieving user engagement, thus improving the likelihood of the intervention's effectiveness. The World Health Organization agrees and advises that user evaluation be incorporated into the mHealth project lifecycle to ensure effective outcomes” (2012, p. 49).

The following sections present well-designed mobile app recommendations that nurses can share to support summer fun safety and reinforce health promotion and prevention guidance in the contexts of sun, beach and water, food, hiking and outdoor adventures, first aid and poison control safety.

Sun Exposure Apps

Sunshine is important for Vitamin D production and helps to elevate mood and outlook. It can also be very damaging to the skin which can trigger skin cancers. Thus, it is important that people expose their skin to the sun wisely and carefully. Paying attention to the UV-index is key to this approach and nurses can help people to recognize this and mobile apps can help by customizing readings to the user’s location, time of day, and weather. “Although most sun safety campaigns target the general population in an impersonal fashion research shows that tailored messages are more effective at increasing risk perception, sun safety knowledge, behaviour and beliefs compared to non-tailored interventions. This may be because tailored messages increase cognitive activity, enhance message relevance or activate self-related mental processing” (Cheetham & Ogden, 2016, p. 3).

People can learn about the UV-Index by looking at health websites such as the EPA UV-Index  https://www.epa.gov/sunsafety/uv-index-scale-0

However, to really make the UV-Index meaningful and relevant during times in the sun, access to a UV-Index app can make all the difference. For instance, UV Index Now lists the following features in their Android and Apple apps:

  • UV index and daily maximum UV for any location around the world
  • 6-hour UV Index forecast, 4-hour forecast on Android Wear and Apple devices including Apple Watch
  • Ozone level and vitamin D tracking
  • Burn alarm timer for outdoor activities
  • UV Index alarm notifications and sun safety advice
  • Sunscreen / sun protection time
  • Time until sunburn and SPF recommendations for your skin type
  • Clouds and area reflection factor corrections
  • Real time weather updates for your area
  • Handy ultraviolet widget for your smartphone or tablet

UV Index Now - Forecast & Sun Tracker - UVI Mate

Apple

Android

EPA UV app

The EPA has also released an app for people to check the UV Index Scale.

Apple

Android

Water and Boat Safety Apps

Summer is often a time where people spend time on or in the water, whether at a beach, pool or on a boat. Specific water and boat safety apps can reinforce previous water safety training when it really counts. “The role of mHealth is rapidly evolving. mHealth offers greater access to health information and services, with the goal of improving health. As ongoing health management responsibility is increasingly transferred to patients and consumers in this digital age, the role of nursing must advance in finding new opportunities to aid patients in changing health-related behaviors” (Harrington, 2018, p. 243).

An example is the Safe Skipper app created to ensure boat safety with the following features:

  • Safety information & practical boating tips
  • Over 100 specially created custom graphics: illustrations, photos & diagrams
  • Advice on preparation, equipment, communications & emergency procedures
  • Tips on how to stay safe and prevent accidents happening

Safe Skipper App

Apple

Andorid

Personalized apps help to reinforce skills and knowledge. For instance, the American Red Cross offers a Swimming app that works to help young swimmers stay motivated and retain the skills they have begun to master. This is done through a user-centered design approach that rewards and supports. “Continued research on the effectiveness of user-centered design in the domain of mHealth and its ability to foster behavioral change is needed to establish stronger evidence and will be an important contribution to the healthcare industry. Recognizing the advantages of a UCD approach and the unrealized potential of mHealth as a means for enhancing self-care, we recommend that development efforts implement a UCD process from the early stages
of design. We believe that only then will mHealth apps meet users' expectations, lead to improved self-care, and ultimately improve user health outcomes” (McCurdie et al., 2012, p. 54).

Features of this app include:

  • Reward and share swimmer’s achievements as they earn badges for mastering skills
  • Keep track of the skills and water safety topics swimmers will learn in each Learn-to-Swim level with videos and detailed charts
  • Ensure swimmers understand and retain the water safety tips they learn with the games and videos in the special section just for kids
  • Do fun activities with your swimmer
  • Learn how to keep your family safe in a variety of environments, such as home pools, rivers, lakes and oceans

Swim by American Red Cross

Apple

Andorid

Picnics and Barbeques

Picnics and barbeques are common summer activities, even when social distancing if done in your own backyard or nearby secluded nature location. Along with these activities comes the need for food safety and food poisoning awareness. Several organizations offer media rich resources to help keep people safe as they enjoy summer outdoor eating. One jam-packed resource is offered by the United States Department of Agriculture:

USDA Summer Toolkit to Prevent Foodborne Illness

USDA Summer Toolkit

There are also several apps available that outline proper food safety and poison prevention.

One example, the FoodKeeper App, also from the United States Department of Agriculture who describe its features: “The FoodKeeper helps you understand food and beverages storage. It will help you maximize the freshness and quality of items. By doing so you will be able to keep items fresh longer than if they were not stored properly. It was developed by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute.” (USDA, n.d.)

USDA FoodKeeper App

Apple

Android

Hiking and Outdoor Adventures

Hiking and exploring nature, far away from other people is another viable summer activity that can be safely done during COVID-19. There is a growing assortment of apps to aid hikers and adventurers to get the most of their time out in nature and stay safe and in control. One example is terrain navigator apps. “A terrain navigator provides a digital map of the surroundings and it also supports us in several ways when hiking, cycling or skiing in a national park. In many aspects, it can be compared to a car navigator. It provides a route planning functionality along the hiking trails and also supports personal navigation while we are moving. It is also able to inform us about the accessibility of the trails or warn us of any obstacles on the trail” (Sarjakoski et al., 2012, p. 1001).

An example of a great navigation app is Spyglass, purported to be “a powerful toolkit essential for every outdoorsman. Augmented reality navigator and a compass for the off-road. Packed with many useful tools: a hi-tech viewfinder (HUD), milspec compass, gyrocompass, maps, tactical GPS, waypoint tracker, speedometer, altimeter, gyro horizon, sniper’s rangefinder, coordinate converter, sextant, inclinometer, angular calculator and zoom camera. Save, find, track and share your position, multiple waypoints, bearings, Sun, Moon and stars, all in real time” (Spyglass Overview, n.d.)

Spyglass - GPS, compass and maps toolkit app

Apple

Android

First Aid, Bites, Poisons and Other Emergencies

Outdoor adventures are often accompanied with exposure to accidents, insect bites, and potential dangers such as poisonous plants, snake bites, and so on. “Poison information resources play an important role by providing information to health-care professionals as well as the general public in the management of poisoning cases, including bites, and are essential for the quick retrieval of updated information. Users in many countries have access to databases specific to the products available in their country” (Poojari, Thunga, Nair, Kunhikatta, & Rao, 2019, p. 147).

Apps are an ideal way to have poison information at one’s fingertips while in the field. An example of a reliable app is:

webPOISONCONTROL® Poison App

Apple

Android

Red Cross First Aid and Hurricane Tracking Apps

Hurricanes are a seasonal threat in some locations, and apps can help susceptible people be better prepared. The American Red Cross offers a free Hurricane App, which gives instant access to local and real-time information on what to do before, during and after a hurricane. Other features allow people to customize weather alerts to monitor locations where loved ones reside and share information via social media.

"This Red Cross app provides important lifesaving information to people in areas threatened by hurricanes," says David Markenson, chair of the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council. "People can rely on it as the information gold standard and the go-to resource for people on hurricane preparedness that also can give peace of mind to travelers, people who have second homes in hurricane prone areas, and those with elderly relatives or college students in coastal areas.

Features include:

  • one-touch "I'm safe" messaging that lets user broadcast via social media outlets;
  • location-based NOAA weather alerts for the U.S. and its territories;
  • remote monitoring of personalized weather alerts;
  • locations of open Red Cross shelters;
  • simple steps and checklists to creating a family emergency plan;
  • preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps even without mobile connectivity;
  • toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm;
  • badges users can earn through interactive quizzes and share on social networks.” (Red Cross Hurricane, 2012, p. 19).

Hurricane - American Red Cross

Apple

Android

This handful of summertime fun related apps are just a very small taste of the apps available to help people really enjoy themselves on these long hot days. There are dozens more related to each of the categories addressed, and nurses can help steer people through the maze to find apps that truly fit their needs and activities.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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Cheetham, I., & Ogden, J. (2016). Enhancing sun safety in young women: The relative impact of format and temporal framing on beliefs and behaviour. Cogent Psychology3(1). 

EPA. (n.d.). UV-Index Scale.  https://www.epa.gov/sunsafety/uv-index-scale-0

Grady, A., Yoong, S., Sutherland, R., Lee, H., Nathan, N., & Wolfenden, L. (2018). Improving the public health impact of eHealth and mHealth interventions. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health42(2), 118–119.

Harrington, L. (2018). From Apps to mHealth: Informing, Interacting, and Changing Behavior. AACN Advanced Critical Care29(3), 240–243.

McCurdie, T., Taneva, S., Casselman, M., Yeung, M., McDaniel, C., Ho, W., & Cafazzo, J. (2012). mHealth consumer apps: the case for user-centered desing. Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology, 49–56.

Poojari, P. G., Thunga, G., Nair, S., Kunhikatta, V., & Rao, M. (2019). A Global Overview of Poison Treatment Apps and Databases. International Journal Of Toxicology38(2), 146–153. 

Red Cross Hurricane App Brings Safety Information to Smartphones. (2012). Professional Safety57(9), 19. 

Sarjakoski, L. Kettunen, P. Flink, H. Laakso, M. Rönneberg, M. & Sarjakoski, T. (2012). Analysis of verbal route descriptions and landmarks for hiking. Personal & Ubiquitous Computing16(8), 1001–1011. 

Spyglass Overview. (n.d.). Spyglass - GPS, compass and maps toolkit app. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.happymagenta.spyglass&utm_source=w&utm_campaign=sg

USDA. (n.d.). Foodkeeper app. United States Department of Agriculture. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.usda.fsis.foodkeeper2&hl=en