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J Med Internet Res. 2016 Jun 10;18(6):e147. doi: 10.2196/jmir.5056.

A Mobile Phone App Intervention Targeting Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: The Efficacy of Textual and Auditory Tailored Health Information Tested in a Randomized Controlled Trial.

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Department of Social Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands.



Mobile phone apps are increasingly used to deliver health interventions, which provide the opportunity to present health information via different communication modes. However, scientific evidence regarding the effects of such health apps is scarce.


In a randomized controlled trial, we tested the efficacy of a 6-month intervention delivered via a mobile phone app that communicated either textual or auditory tailored health information aimed at stimulating fruit and vegetable intake. A control condition in which no health information was given was added. Perceived own health and health literacy were included as moderators to assess for which groups the interventions could possibly lead to health behavior change.


After downloading the mobile phone app, respondents were exposed monthly to either text-based or audio-based tailored health information and feedback over a period of 6 months via the mobile phone app. In addition, respondents in the control condition only completed the baseline and posttest measures. Within a community sample (online recruitment), self-reported fruit and vegetable intake at 6-month follow-up was our primary outcome measure.


In total, 146 respondents (ranging from 40 to 58 per condition) completed the study (attrition rate 55%). A significant main effect of condition was found on fruit intake (P=.049, partial η(2)=0.04). A higher fruit intake was found after exposure to the auditory information, especially in recipients with a poor perceived own health (P=.003, partial η(2)=0.08). In addition, health literacy moderated the effect of condition on vegetable intake 6 months later (P<.001, partial η(2)=.11). A higher vegetable intake was found for recipients with high health literacy after exposure to the textual or auditory intervention compared to the control condition (contrasts P=.07 and P=.004, respectively). In the case of relatively low health literacy, vegetable intake was the highest in the control condition (contrasts text control: P=.03; audio control: P=.04).


This study provides evidence-based insight into the effects of a mobile health app. The app seems to have the potential to change fruit and vegetable intake up to 6 months later, at least for specific groups. We found different effects for fruit and vegetable intake, respectively, suggesting that different underlying psychological mechanisms are associated with these specific behaviors. Based on our results, it seems worthwhile to investigate additional ways to increase fruit and vegetable intake in recipients with low health literacy.


International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 23466915; (Archived by WebCite at


audio; communication modality; fruit and vegetable intake; health behavior; intervention study; mobile phone app; persuasive communication

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