Public Health Internet Applications in Promoting Health Behavior
Rik Crutzen, Stan Vluggen
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0162


Internet applications fall under the umbrella of eHealth, which is an emerging field in the intersection of medical informatics, public health, and business, referring to health services and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies. A subfield of eHealth, mHealth refers to the use of mobile computing and communication technologies for the same purpose. This article focuses on Internet applications for promoting health behavior. Essential elements of health promotion include educational, environmental, and organizational support to enable people to gain greater control over the determinants of their health. Internet applications are tools that can be used within health promotion for people to gain greater control over their health behavior. This can be relevant in primary prevention (e.g., to promote smoking cessation), secondary prevention (e.g., to promote STI screening among high risk groups), and tertiary prevention (e.g., to facilitate self-management of type-2 diabetes). Internet applications can also be used as decision aid to help people to make choices (e.g., to choose between treatment options) or to facilitate communication with health professionals.

General Overviews

Interventions aimed at behavior change are increasingly being delivered over the Internet. Kohl, et al. 2013 provides an overview on Internet applications aimed at lifestyle behavior and identify research gaps regarding reach, effectiveness, and use. Fiordelli, et al. 2013 focuses on mHealth and provides a comprehensive view of the field of mHealth research to date and aim to foster understanding of whether and how the new generation of smartphones has provided new opportunities. Despite promising potential, however, limited research is available (Dute, et al. 2016). Piette, et al. 2012 has conducted a review to identify unanswered questions for future research regarding eHealth in general, particularly on topics relevant to low- and middle-income countries.

  • Dute, Denise Jantine, Wanda Jose Erika Bemelmans, and João Breda. 2016. Using mobile apps to promote a healthy lifestyle among adolescents and students: A review of the theoretical basis and lessons learned. JMIR mHealth uHealth 4:e39.

    DOI: 10.2196/mhealth.3559

    An exploration on how mobile apps can contribute to health promotion. For the apps identified, the review describes the content, the theoretical mechanisms applied, and lessons learned.

  • Fiordelli, Maddalena, Nicola Diviani, and Peter J Schulz. 2013. Mapping mHealth research: A decade of evolution. Journal of Medical Internet Research 15:e95.

    DOI: 10.2196/jmir.2430

    An overview on the impact of mobile phones and smartphones in health care.

  • Kohl, Leonie F. M., Rik Crutzen, and Nanne K. de Vries. 2013. Online prevention aimed at lifestyle behaviors: A systematic review of reviews. Journal of Medical Internet Research 15:e146.

    DOI: 10.2196/jmir.2665

    An overview of forty-one reviews, which were analyzed in terms of reach, effectiveness, and use according to the RE-AIM framework.

  • Piette, John D., K. C. Lun, Lincoln A. Moura Jr., et al. 2012. Impacts of e-health on the outcomes of care in low- and middle-income countries: Where do we go from here? Bulletin of the World Health Organization 90:365–372.

    DOI: 10.2471/BLT.11.099069

    A scoping review on the effects of eHealth on health outcomes and costs in in low- and middle-income countries.

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