Promoting Behavior Change from Alcohol Use Through Mobile Technology: The Future of Ecological Momentary Assessment

Authors

  • Amy M. Cohn,

    1. From the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy (AMC, BTH, JM), University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; and Department of Psychology (DH-R), Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey.
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  • Dorian Hunter-Reel,

    1. From the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy (AMC, BTH, JM), University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; and Department of Psychology (DH-R), Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey.
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  • Brett T. Hagman,

    1. From the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy (AMC, BTH, JM), University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; and Department of Psychology (DH-R), Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey.
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  • Jessica Mitchell

    1. From the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy (AMC, BTH, JM), University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; and Department of Psychology (DH-R), Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Reprint requests: Amy M. Cohn, PhD, Department of Mental Health Law & Policy/Department of Criminology, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida, 13301 Bruce B. Downs Blvd, MHC 2716 Tampa, FL 33612; Tel.: 813-974-5476; Fax: 813-974-6411; E-mail:amycohn@usf.edu

Abstract

Background:  Interactive and mobile technologies (i.e., smartphones such as Blackberries, iPhones, and palm-top computers) show promise as an efficacious and cost-effective means of communicating health-behavior risks, improving public health outcomes, and accelerating behavior change. The present study was conducted as a “needs assessment” to examine the current available mobile smartphone applications (e.g., apps) that utilize principles of ecological momentary assessment (EMA)—daily self-monitoring or near real-time self-assessment of alcohol-use behavior—to promote positive behavior change, alcohol harm reduction, psycho-education about alcohol use, or abstinence from alcohol.

Methods:  Data were collected and analyzed from iTunes for Apple iPhone©. An inventory assessed the number of available apps that directly addressed alcohol use and consumption, alcohol treatment, or recovery, and whether these apps incorporated empirically based components of alcohol treatment.

Results:  Findings showed that few apps addressed alcohol-use behavior change or recovery. Aside from tracking drinking consumption, a minority utilized empirically based components of alcohol treatment. Some apps claimed they could serve as an intervention; however, no empirical evidence was provided.

Conclusions:  More studies are needed to examine the efficacy of mobile technology in alcohol intervention studies. The large gap between availability of mobile apps and their use in alcohol treatment programs indicates several important future directions for research.

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