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Introduction: The use of mobile phones and other technology for improving health through research and practice is growing quickly, in particular in areas with difficult-to-reach population or where the research infrastructure is less developed. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there appears to be a dramatic increase in mobile phone ownership and new initiatives that capitalize on this technology to support health promotion campaigns to change behavior and to increase health literacy. However, the extent to which difficult-to-reach youth in the slums of Kampala may own and use mobile phones has not been reported despite the burden of injuries, substance use, and HIV that they face. The purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence of mobile phone ownership and use in this high-risk population and to identify psychosocial characteristics that may differentiate those owning and using a phone from those who do not.
Methods: We conducted secondary analyses of the Kampala Youth Survey (N¼457). Data collection took place in 2011, and the survey was designed to quantify high-risk behaviors in a convenience sample of urban youth living on the streets or in the slums, 14–24 years of age, who were participating in a Uganda Youth Development Link drop-in center for disadvantaged street youth. We computed chisquare analyses to determine any significant differences in psychosocial characteristics based on phone ownership and use.
Results: Overall, 46.9% of youth reported owning a mobile phone and ownership did not vary by sex but was more common among youth older than 18 years of age. Mobile phone ownership was also more common among those who reported taking care of themselves at night, who reported current drug use and who reported trading sex for money, food or other things.
Conclusion: Given that nearly half of the youth own and use phones daily, new research is needed to determine next steps for mobile health (mhealth), including the feasibility of using mobile phones for data collection and interventions with this hard-to-reach population. Moreover, this technology may also be suitable for injury-specific research given that there were few differences with respect to injuryrelated variables in mobile phone ownership and usage. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(5):600–603.]


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West J Emerg Med, 15 (5), 600-3. doi:

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