JMIR mHealth and uHealth (Mar 2020)

Using Mobile Health Tools to Engage Rural Underserved Individuals in a Diabetes Education Program in South Texas: Feasibility Study

  • Yin, Zenong,
  • Lesser, Janna,
  • Paiva, Kristi A,
  • Zapata Jr, Jose,
  • Moreno-Vasquez, Andrea,
  • Grigsby, Timothy J,
  • Ryan-Pettes, Stacy R,
  • Parra-Medina, Deborah,
  • Estrada, Vanessa,
  • Li, Shiyu,
  • Wang, Jing

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 3
p. e16683


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BackgroundAccess to diabetes education and resources for diabetes self-management is limited in rural communities, despite higher rates of diabetes in rural populations compared with urban populations. Technology and mobile health (mHealth) interventions can reduce barriers and improve access to diabetes education in rural communities. Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) and financial incentives can be used with mHealth interventions to increase the uptake of diabetes education; however, studies have not examined their combined use for diabetes self-management in rural settings. ObjectiveThis two-phase Stage 1 feasibility study aimed to use a mixed methods design to examine the feasibility and acceptability of an mHealth diabetes education program combining SBIRT and financial incentives to engage rural individuals. MethodsIn Phase 1, we aimed to develop, adapt, and refine the intervention protocol. In Phase 2, a 3-month quasi-experimental study was conducted with individuals from 2 rural communities in South Texas. Study participants were individuals who attended free diabetes screening events in their community. Those with low or medium risk received health education material, whereas those with high risk or those with a previous diagnosis of diabetes participated in motivational interviewing and enrolled in the 6-week mHealth Diabetes Self-Management Education Program under either an unconditional or aversion incentive contract. The participants returned for a 3-month follow-up. Feasibility and acceptability of the intervention were determined by the rate of participant recruitment and retention, the fidelity of program delivery and compliance, and the participant’s satisfaction with the intervention program. ResultsOf the 98 screened rural community members in South Texas, 72 individuals met the study eligibility and 62 individuals agreed to enroll in the study. The sample was predominately female and Hispanic, with an average age of 52.6 years. The feedback from study participants indicated high levels of satisfaction with the mHealth diabetes education program. In the poststudy survey, the participants reported high levels of confidence to continue lifestyle modifications, that is, weight loss, physical activity, and diet. The retention rate was 50% at the 3-month follow-up. Participation in the intervention was high at the beginning and dissipated in the later weeks regardless of the incentive contract type. Positive changes were observed in weight (mean -2.64, SD 6.01; P<.05) and glycemic control index (-.30; P<.05) in all participants from baseline to follow-up. ConclusionsThe finding showed strong feasibility and acceptability of study recruitment and enrollment. The participants’ participation and retention were reasonable given the unforeseen events that impacted the study communities during the study period. Combining mHealth with SBIRT has the potential to reach individuals with need to participate in diabetes education in rural communities.