Harnessing phones to target pediatric populations with socially complex needs: Systematic review

Colleen Stiles-Shields*, Lauren M. Potthoff, Dawn T. Bounds, Maureen T.S. Burns, Janel M. Draxler, Caitlin H. Otwell, Emily D. Wolodiger, Jennifer Westrick, Niranjan S. Karnik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Mobile and smartphones are owned and accessed by many, making them a potentially optimal delivery mechanism to reach pediatric patients with socially complex needs (ie, pediatric populations who face overlapping adversities). Objective: To address the specialized needs of youth from such groups, this review synthesized the literature exploring the use of phone-based delivery to access pediatric populations with socially complex needs, targeting mental and behavioral health outcomes. The purpose of this synthesis was to provide recommendations for future research developing phone-based interventions for youth with socially complex needs. Methods: A trained medical librarian conducted the search strategy in the following databases: PubMed, Scopus, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Cochrane CENTRAL Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Google Scholar. Studies targeting youth with socially complex needs were defined by recruiting samples that were primarily from traditionally underserved populations (ie, sex/gender minorities, racial/ethnic background, low socioeconomic status, rural/remote location, and sexual orientation). A systematic narrative framework was utilized and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed (registration number CRD42020141212). Results: A total of 14 studies met the inclusion criteria, with 3 depicting the use of phones to complete assessment and tracking goals and 11 to intervene on mental and behavioral health targets. Conclusions: The literature indicates important directions for future research, including (1) involving diverse and representative teens (ie, the likely users of the interventions), stakeholders, and clinical/research staff; (2) integrating evidence-based therapies with minority-focused theories; (3) harnessing mobile device capabilities; and (4) considering and assessing for potential costs in phones as delivery mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere19269
JournalJMIR Pediatrics and Parenting
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Digital mental health
  • Health disparities
  • MHealth
  • Telehealth
  • Underserved youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Biomedical Engineering


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