Group of kids smsIn a recent meta-analysis reviewing 36 studies involving nearly 30,000 patients, researchers from the University of Florida found that digital health interventions were effective at improving a variety of health outcomes for kids.

In this meta-analysis, researchers cast a broad net looking for studies that involving a digital health intervention intended to impact health behaviors or outcomes for kids. They identified 36 separate studies involving nearly 30,000 kids.

The included studies focused on areas such as immunization, asthma, obesity, HIV prevention, and diabetes. Surprisingly, there’s actually very little detail on the outcomes measured or the effect size in different conditions. Rather, all conditions are lumped together and aggregated by looking at the size of the effect in each study. The interventions are briefly described (in the supplement) and range from email-based educational materials to active text messaging and interactive health apps.

All together, they found that digital health interventions did seem to have a positive effect on the measured health outcomes. Given the methodology, its not surprising that there was a lot of heterogeneity in effect size.

Whats more interesting to take away from this study though was the factors associated with success. In particular, involving caregivers in the intervention seemed to be the one moderating factor that was associated with more effective interventions.

Caregiver engagement is something we’ve seen embraced by many health apps. For example, medication reminder app Medisafe helps get family involved in tracking and supporting medication adherence. The potential benefits are certainly intuitive and the findings of this analysis certainly lend further credibility to that approach.