Mobile software applications (apps) on health-related topics are among the most popular apps used today. However, concerns have been raised about privacy and security risks of consumer data, and disclosure to third parties. Concerns have also been raised about the content rating of apps and whether it corresponds with in-app advertising. The aim of this project was to explore international regulation of health apps and existing standards for app developers. A literature review was conducted focusing on standards, compliance, guidelines, awareness and technology. A set of assessment criteria was then developed that could be used by parents to evaluate the trustworthiness of maternal and child health apps. In the pilot study the criteria were assessed against ten maternal and child health apps selected from Google play, Apple store, the SocialWellth app library and the former UK National Health Service app library. Only one of the ten maternal and child health apps met all ten assessment criteria; two apps met only five criteria. The least frequently met criteria involved use of a trustmark and government approval, and in-app advertising falling outside the content rating. Our evaluation highlighted issues with the way information is made available to consumers through maternal and child health apps. It also demonstrated that not all app developers and advertisers follow existing relevant international guidelines or technology standards. Given this environment, our proposed assessment criteria are a means by which parents can make their own evaluation of the trustworthiness of maternal and child health apps before downloading them.
- Maternal and child health