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How effective is a smartphone app in teaching sexual health to teen girls?

September 08, 2016

Across the globe, there is increased focus on developing interventions related to comprehensive sexual health education for adolescents, with the ultimate goal of combatting unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The challenge has been how best to reach this audience in a way that is meaningful, relevant and easy to understand.

A research team led by Lynae M. Brayboy, MD, reproductive endocrinologist in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, found that a smartphone application vs. traditional methods can potentially connect teenage girls to more information about sexual health. The research, entitled "Girl Talk: A Smartphone Application to Teach Sexual Health Education to Adolescent Girls," was recently published in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. The article was co-authored by Carol Wheeler, MD, also of Women & Infants/Brown University.

"We found that a smartphone application is a feasible sexual health educational tool that is appealing to teenage girls," said Dr. Brayboy. "In fact, our participants recommended the application as a valuable resource to learn about comprehensive sexual health."

For their research, Dr. Brayboy and her team recruited 39 girls ages 12 to 17 from Rhode Island to participate in a two-phase prospective study. In phase one, 22 girls assessed a sexual health questionnaire in focus groups. In phase two, 17 girls with iPhones used the Girl Talk application for two weeks and answered the revised sexual health questionnaire and interview questions before and after the application use. The participants' responses to the sexual health questionnaire, interviews and time viewing the application were used to determine feasibility and desirability of Girl Talk.

Dr. Brayboy explained that Girl Talk was used on average for 48 minutes during participants' free time on weekends, generally in 10 to 15 minute intervals. The reported usefulness of Girl Talk as a sexual health application increased significantly from baseline (35.3%) to follow-up (94.1%)."More than three-quarters of the participants were exposed to sexual health education before using Girl Talk, but 94.1% of participants stated that the application provided new and/or more detailed information than health classes."

Dr. Brayboy and her team will be seeking opportunities to perform additional trials to determine if Girl Talk improves sexual health knowledge, increases contraception usage and decreases sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.
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About Women & Infants Hospital

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation's leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women's medicine, Women & Infants is the 12th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children's Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country's largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation's first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation's only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute's Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.

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