Health apps fall short of standards

6:00 am on 4 September 2015

A study shows some smartphone apps aimed at helping people lose weight or quit smoking fall short of Ministry of Health guidelines.

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Not all health apps are effective a study has found. Photo: AFP

The study, conducted by fourth year University of Otago medical students, assessed the quality of 120 Android and Apple apps, with 60 aimed at weightloss and another 60 aimed at helping people stop smoking.

It ranked the app Noom Coach as the top weightloss app and Australian app Quit Now the best app for giving up smoking.

But one of the students leading the study, Lucy Sulzberger said overall the 120 apps did not perform particularly well against the various criteria, including how culturally and medically appropriate they were.

"We really found that even those that ranked most highly within their respected groups didn't necessarily do particularly well," she said.

"There are awful lot of apps available to the public that advertise that their helpful, in helping you quit smoking or helping you manage your weight, and it's almost concerning to a degree that a lot of these apps don't actually adhere to Ministry of Health endorsed guidelines, so there's really a gap in the market there."

She said health professionals could consider suggesting the highest quality apps to interested patients, but more research needs to be done on their effectiveness first.