Background Researchers advise caution with use of new health apps as they may not incorporate robust scientific evidence or support behavioural change. A recent review (1) notes increased use of Vitamin D purchased supplements, with suggestion that a specific app be designed to help consumers decide on need for supplementation, followed by appropriate dose and product purchase advice, with decision further facilitated by discussion with health professionals. With possibly a national level role for Public Health, the NHS and even governments to support development of such informed electronic systems.
Aim To identify and evaluate Vitamin D apps currently available for public use.
Methods Vitamin D apps identified on iOS and Android mobile smart-phones systems were categorised based on proposed aims of app. An adapted mobile applications rating scale, MARS (2), was then used to score the apps (subset category relevant to health care provision) for validated information quality criteria.
Results 51 and 21 apps identified on the I-phone iOS and Android smart-phones respectively, available as a free or chargeable resource. Categories included: safe sun exposure (n=13; 6 respectively), nutritional advice and support (n=19; 7), Vitamin D levels testing, tracking and for discussion with doctor (n=6; 2). Some designed for USA leisure industry (safe sun exposure, exercise, relaxation treatments) (n=6; 1), for commercial use (n=3; 1), with three iOS apps for educational utility (eg. chemistry, architecture). One iOS app was designed by a research institute targeting improvement in child health. Of the total 9 apps evaluated, MARS Information Quality scores ranged between 8 – 26. With the app for use exclusively by clinicians providing osteoporosis care scoring 26; and the child health app assigned score of 22. The remaining apps (n=7) focused mainly on advice to improve dietary intake. One commercial app available on both iOS and Android systems (MARS 20, 22 respectively) targeted consumers with chronic conditions and on Vitamin D.
Conclusion There were no high quality Vitamin D apps identified for use by consumers to help decision on routine Vitamin D nutritional supplementation.
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