Assessing the internal and external validity of mobile health physical activity promotion interventions: A systematic literaturereview using the RE-AIM framework

Kacie C.A. Blackman, Jamie Zoellner, Leanna M. Berrey, Ramine Alexander, Jason Fanning, Jennie L. Hill, Paul A. Estabrooks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Background: Mobile health (mHealth) interventions are effective in promoting physical activity (PA); however, the degree to which external validity indicators are reported is unclear. Objective: The purpose of this systematic review was to use the RE-AIM (reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and maintenance) framework to determine the extent to which mHealth intervention research for promoting PA reports on factors that inform generalizability across settings and populations and to provide recommendations for investigators planning to conduct this type of research. Methods: Twenty articles reflecting 15 trials published between 2000 and 2012 were identified through a systematic review process (ie, queries of three online databases and reference lists of eligible articles) and met inclusion criteria (ie, implementation of mobile technologies, target physical activity, and provide original data). Two researchers coded each article using a validated RE-AIM data extraction tool (reach, efficacy/effectiveness, adoption, implementation, maintenance). Two members of the study team independently abstracted information from each article (inter-rater reliability >90%) and group meetings were used to gain consensus on discrepancies. Results: The majority of studies were randomized controlled trials (n=14). The average reporting across RE-AIM indicators varied by dimension (reach=53.3%, 2.67/5; effectiveness/efficacy=60.0%, 2.4/4; adoption=11.1%, 0.7/6; implementation=24.4%, 0.7/3; maintenance=0%, 0/3). While most studies described changes in the primary outcome (effectiveness), few addressed the representativeness of participants (reach) or settings (adoption) and few reported on issues related to maintenance and degree of implementation fidelity. Conclusions: This review suggests that more focus is needed on research designs that highlight and report on both internal and external validity indicators. Specific recommendations are provided to encourage future mHealth interventionists and investigators to report on representativeness, settings, delivery agents for planned interventions, the extent to which protocol is delivered as intended, and maintenance of effects at the individual or organizational level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2745
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Generalizability
  • Mobile technology
  • Physical activity
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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