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iMedicalApps and JMIR Publications have partnered to help disseminate interesting & innovative digital health research being done worldwide. Each article in this series will feature summaries of interesting studies to help you keep up to date on the latest in digital health research. We invite you to share your thoughts on the study in the comments section.

Development and Feasibility of ¡Protéjase!: an mHealth Intervention Designed to Increase PPE Use among Mexican and Mexican-American Farmworkers

1. What was the motivation behind your study?

Farmworkers’ exposures to pesticides are reduced when they wear personal protective equipment (PPE), and mobile health (mHealth) platforms can potentially deliver information to farmworkers to help promote PPE use. However, little is known about the feasibility of using mHealth platforms to promote farmworkers’ use of PPE. Although we know that mHealth presents a unique and viable intervention platform to improve PPE use, such an approach for pesticide safety among a Mexican farmworker population has not yet been explored.

2. Describe your study.

In this study, we developed, implemented and tested the feasibility of an mHealth intervention called ¡Protéjase! (Protect Yourself!), which was both broadly (e.g., language, culturally-appropriate) and dynamically (daily risk profiles) tailored to promote PPE use among Mexican-origin and Mexican American farmworkers. Since over 80% of the agricultural workforce is of Mexican origin and farmworkers who identify as Latino have significantly greater exposures to pesticides, we thought it critical to develop our intervention for Mexican and Latino farmworkers.

3. What were the results of the study?

The ¡Protéjase! mHealth program demonstrated very good feasibility, satisfaction and acceptance. Among farmworkers who completed the entire intervention feasibility trial, potential improvements (e.g., small modifications in messaging to increase in farmworkers’ use) were noted. Although over half (54%) felt that no changes were needed, 39% suggested small changes to messaging (e.g. refer to long pants as pants only) to improve their understanding of the messages. Additionally, a small number (7%) felt that messages were difficult to read, primarily due to low literacy.

4. What is the main point that readers should take away from this study?

Overall, the PPE provided to workers as well as the mHealth platform were both perceived as useful for promoting PPE use. The daily survey and PPE motivational messages were also well regarded, as indicated by one participant who stated: “the questions were easy (las preguntas estaban fáciles)” and “[my] favorite [part] was the messages ([mi parte] favorita fueron los mensajes)”.

5. What was the most surprising finding from your study?

We expected barriers associated with cell phone use. The primary perceived barrier to the mHealth approach was difficulty with technical issues regarding the mobile smart phone (such as battery life or freezing of the phone’s screen). However, the majority of participants had no barriers using the smart phone and reported the questions as “being easy (estaban fáciles)”. Our surprise what that despite any such barriers, provision of daily surveys was quite good. Overall, 82% of surveys were successfully completed in one attempt, and 15% were completed in two attempts.

6. What are the next steps? How do you envision this work ultimately translating into clinical practice or affecting R&D?

Our future efforts are to refine and test the intervention for reduction of perceived barriers in use of the mHealth platform for pesticide safety. Ultimately, we hope to test the intervention in a full trial.

This Q&A was contributed by Dr. Shedra Amy Snipes, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health at the Pennsylvania State University.
Shedra Amy Snipes, Ph.D.