Will the mHealth Business Shrink or Exacerbate Health Inequalities?

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An article in the November American Journal of Public Health analyzes the social networks of the  major stakeholders in mobile health app development and describes their financial relationships to each other and to global corporations in technology, pharmaceuticals and entertainment, prime investors in the rapidly expanding mHealth business.  The authors conclude that public health researchers need to “extend their scrutiny and advocacy beyond the health messages contained within apps to understanding commercial influences on health and, when necessary, challenging them.”  In an accompanying editorial, CHW’s Nicholas Freudenberg notes that in their effort to maintain profitability in a crowded marketplace, corporations selling the 259,000 mHealth apps now on the U.S.  market   may make misleading claims, cover up defects or market unscrupulously, thus harming rather than helping users. Those mHealth apps that are effective and safe risk widening inequalities in health by being more accessible to the users who can afford them.