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An Unstructured Supplementary Service Data-Based mHealth App Providing On-Demand Sexual Reproductive Health Information for Adolescents in Kibra, Kenya: Randomized Controlled Trial - medtigo

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An Unstructured Supplementary Service Data-Based mHealth App Providing On-Demand Sexual Reproductive Health Information for Adolescents in Kibra, Kenya: Randomized Controlled Trial

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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2022 Apr 15;10(4):e31233. doi: 10.2196/31233.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Adolescents transitioning from childhood to adulthood need to be equipped with sexual reproductive health (SRH) knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that empower them. Accessible, reliable, appropriate, and friendly information can be provided through mobile phone-based health interventions.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to investigate the effectiveness and impact of an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)-based app in increasing adolescents’ knowledge about contraceptives, gender-based stereotypes, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), abstinence, and perceived vulnerability, and helping adolescents make informed decisions about their SRH.

METHODS: A randomized controlled trial (RCT) methodology was applied to investigate the potential of a USSD-based app for providing on-demand SRH information. To be eligible, adolescents aged 15 to 19 years residing in Kibra, Kenya, had to have access to a phone and be available for the 3-month follow-up visit. Participants were randomly assigned to the intervention (n=146) and control (n=154) groups using sequentially numbered, opaque, sealed envelopes. The primary outcome was improved SRH knowledge. The secondary outcome was improved decision-making on SRH. The outcomes were measured using validated tools on adolescent SRH and user perceptions during the follow-up visit. A paired sample t test was used to compare the changes in knowledge scores in both groups. The control group did not receive any SRH information.

RESULTS: During the RCT, 54.9% (62/109) of adolescents used the USSD-based app at least once. The mean age by randomization group was 17.3 (SD 1.23) years for the control group and 17.3 (SD 1.12) years for the intervention group. There was a statistically significant difference in the total knowledge scores in the intervention group (mean 10.770, SD 2.012) compared with the control group (mean 10.170, SD 2.412) conditions (t179=2.197; P=.03). There was a significant difference in abstinence (P=.01) and contraceptive use (P=.06). Of the individuals who used the app, all participants felt the information received could improve decision-making regarding SRH. Information on STIs was of particular interest, with 27% (20/62) of the adolescents seeking information in this area, of whom 55% (11/20) were female. In relation to improved decision-making, 21.6% (29/134) of responses showed the adolescents were able to identify STIs and were likely to seek treatment; 51.7% (15/29) of these were female. Ease of use was the most important feature of the app for 28.3% (54/191) of the responses.

CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents require accurate and up-to-date SRH information to guide their decision-making and improve health outcomes. As adolescents already use mobile phones in their day-to-day lives, apps provide an ideal platform for this information. A USSD-based app could be an appropriate tool for increasing SRH knowledge among adolescents in low-resource settings. Adolescents in the study valued the information provided because it helped them identify SRH topics on which they needed more information.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Pan African Clinical Trial Registry PACTR202204774993198; https://pactr.samrc.ac.za/TrialDisplay.aspx?TrialID=22623.

PMID:35436230 | DOI:10.2196/31233

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