Currently submitted to: JMIR mHealth and uHealth
Date Submitted: May 8, 2019
Open Peer Review Period: May 13, 2019 - Jul 8, 2019
(currently open for review)
NIH Grants Proposing Specialized Smartphone Intervention Apps: 2014 to 2018
The widespread adoption of mobile and smartphones provides researchers with expanded opportunities for implementing behavioral and health-related interventions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds competitive technology-based grant applications to support health promotion consistent with its mission. Funded grants represent the state-of-the-art science and therefore are expected to anticipate the progression of health promotion and disease prevention research in the near future.
The objective of this paper is to examine the different kinds of smartphone-based intervention apps funded through NIH Institutes during the five-year period between 2014 and 2018.
We queried the public domain NIH Reporter to identify candidate grants that addressed mHealth and involved implementation of smartphone applications. From 1,524 potential grants, we identified 399 that met the requisite of including an intervention app. Grants from 20 Institutes under the NIH umbrella were included. Each grant’s abstract was analyzed to understand the rationale behind the app and focus of intervention, in addition year of funding, and first-year award amount, type of activity (e.g. R01, R34, etc.), specific strategy, intended outcome, and target population were also noted.
We identified 13 categories of strategies employed in the different intervention apps. Most grants included either one (36.6%) or two (37.8%) intervention approaches. These included cognitive and behavioral therapies (67 apps), enhanced motivation (49 apps), mindfulness training (17 apps), norm setting (7 apps), skills training (84 apps), gaming and gamification (56 apps), social support and social networking (58 apps), facilitating, reminding and referring (60 apps), education and information (84 apps), monitoring and feedback (191 apps), contingency management (23 apps), artificial intelligence (57 apps), and bionic adaptation (33 apps). The most frequently observed grant types included SBIR/STTR grants (40.9%) and R01s (26.1%). The number of grants funded increase through the five-year period from 60 in 2014 to 112 in 2018.
Smartphone intervention apps are increasingly competitive for NIH funding. They utilize a wide diversity of intervention strategies and substantive foci that collectively have significant potential for use in applied health promotion settings.
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