New York City Health Department falls for Smartphone mHealth hype

The Telegraph has an interesting report on a new ‘Condom app’ unveiled by the New York City Health Department yesterday (Valentines Day) that is designed to help citizens locate the nearest place in their area giving out free condoms.

In my opinion the implementation of this does a great job of highlighting the need for public health officials to be sure that they have a good appreciation of mobile marketing principles. Here’s a few reasons why:

> The application requries the patient to have a Android or Apple iPhone Smartphone

> The application requires the patient to have a data plan paid for and set up

Isn’t it more than obvious that the service could have been set up via SMS using free open source software (eg. from SMS Frontline) to offer the following benefits:

> Easier to use: Instead of “search the App store/Android Market for the Free Condom application, then download and run it. Then enter your address or GPS location” they could have just said “SMS your area code to SAFESEX (7233739)”

> Greater Accessibility: No need for an expensive new smartphone or data plan, an important consideration if you’re trying to make a campaign appeal to citizens who aren’t prepared to pay for their condoms, are “pre-adolescent”, are tourists (presumably reliant on an expensive roaming data plan), etc

TOP TIP TO TAKE AWAY: Before even thinking about ignoring the majority of your potential customers start your public mHealth initiative with SMS, MMS, Mobile Web or WAP site, Java, Widgets… only after you have those bases covered THEN do your free app for the iPhone.

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