This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on the intersection of the digital world and people’s health, called “mobile health” (or “mHealth”). Bee Schindler, community engagement coordinator with the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, spoke about this topic.

BS: Good morning, Ms. Bush. I thank you for the chance to talk with you today about mHealth. I’m excited to use this topic to launch my first discussion with you for the New Pittsburgh Courier page. mHealth is interesting to me because studies show that more than three quarters of people living in the United States have smartphones. Many people reading this page can relate to mHealth.

EB: Yes, Bee. This is a topic that most people can relate to, especially as the world becomes more digital. Having the opportunity to monitor health, such as tracking the ways our food intake affects our ability to manage weight loss, is one that could help everyone who has access to smartphones. Weight control ultimately lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states is the cause of one in every four deaths in our country. We’re all so busy, so having an app in our pocket to keep track of our habits seems like a good path to me.

BS: Absolutely! Researchers like Dr. Lora Burke found that when food journals were being tracked using a pen and paper, the feedback from research study coordinators was slow. With mobile apps, users can enter their daily activity, log food intake and get immediate, unique feedback. And, as you noted, being overweight is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for all races, including African Americans. Technology can be used as a remedy for making some changes.

EB: That’s important to mention because African Americans are often forced to advocate for their health needs. Taking charge of one’s health will lead to being able to make better health decisions that can start with the devices most of us interact with daily.

BS: I second that. Dr. Burke mentions that personal data tracking and a mobile app’s ability to serve as a health coach is critical to changing behaviors. It’s important for our readers to understand that volunteering for research studies is a vital way for researchers to understand how immediate feedback to the user’s activity affects their behaviors and how long they are engaged with the approach. I encourage our readers to check out the resources listed on this page and to discuss them with their doctors to see if any of them will be beneficial to their health.

EB: Thank you so much having this conversation with me, Bee. We’ve provided some great information and ways that readers can take charge of their health today. I look forward to next month as we discuss gun violence prevention and community trauma.