Date of Award

Fall 12-21-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Monica Swahn

Second Advisor

Shannon Self


Introduction: Research shows that many youth groups in Uganda own mobile phones. However, the extent to which youth who live in the slums of Kampala own and uses mobile phones has not been sufficiently explored. With the expansion of mobile technology, mobile health has emerged as a potential cost-effective tool that can allow this youth access health-related data and information.

AIM: This study sought to determine the prevalence of mobile phone ownership and uses, document changes from the previous sampling event, and assess the association between mobile phone uses and psychosocial factors in this high-risk population.

Methods: A convenience sample (n=1134) was obtained in 2014 from urban youth living on the streets, 12-18 years of age, and who were participating in a Uganda Youth Development Link drop-in center for disadvantaged street youth. Mobile phone use variables consisted of talking/texting, internet use for browsing, and social media. Statistical analyses were performed to determine the likelihood of owning a mobile phone and uses, and its association with youth risk factors.

Results: Mobile phone ownership, internet use and social media utilization were 49.1%, 25.5%, and 23.4%, respectively. Compared to the previous study, little change occurred in mobile phone ownership but internet uses for searching and social media increased by double digit percentages. Daily talking and texting was significantly more prevalent in children who reported having STDs (p<0.0001) and trading sex for money (p=0.001), among others, and significantly associated with having STDs (aOR 1.75, 95% CI 1.32-2.32), being drunk (aOR 3.16, 95% CI 2.26-4.42), trading sex for money (aOR 1.97, 95% CI 1.39-2.80), and feeling sad (aOR 1.70, 95% CI 1.25-2.30). Similar results were obtained with internet for searching and social media uses but with less significant associations.

Discussion: Based on that about a half of the children own a mobile phone and that a substantial number of them use it daily for talking or texting, the next step would be to design m-Health programs that would take advantage of mobile phone voice and texting capabilities specifically to inform on potential interventions for behavioral change and mental health.