Deakin University
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The app behavior change scale: creation of a scale to assess the potential of apps to promote behavior change

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-01-25, 00:00 authored by Fiona McKayFiona McKay, Sarah TurnerSarah Turner, Matthew DunnMatthew Dunn
BACKGROUND: Using mobile phone apps to promote behavior change is becoming increasingly common. However, there is no clear way to rate apps against their behavior change potential. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to develop a reliable, theory-based scale that can be used to assess the behavior change potential of smartphone apps. METHODS: A systematic review of all studies purporting to investigate app's behavior change potential was conducted. All scales and measures from the identified studies were collected to create an item pool. From this item pool, 3 health promotion exerts created the App Behavior Change Scale (ABACUS). To test the scale, 70 physical activity apps were rated to provide information on reliability. RESULTS: The systematic review returned 593 papers, the abstracts and titles of all were reviewed, with the full text of 77 papers reviewed; 50 papers met the inclusion criteria. From these 50 papers, 1333 questions were identified. Removing duplicates and unnecessary questions left 130 individual questions, which were then refined into the 21-item scale. The ABACUS demonstrates high percentage agreement among reviewers (over 80%), with 3 questions scoring a Krippendorff alpha that would indicate agreement and a further 7 came close with alphas >.5. The scale overall reported high interrater reliability (2-way mixed interclass coefficient=.92, 95% CI 0.81-0.97) and high internal consistency (Cronbach alpha=.93). CONCLUSIONS: The ABACUS is a reliable tool that can be used to determine the behavior change potential of apps. This instrument fills a gap by allowing the evaluation of a large number of apps to be standardized across a range of health categories.



JMIR mHealth and uHealth





Article number



JMIR Publications


Toronto, Ont.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2019, Fiona H McKay, Sarah Slykerman, Matthew Dunn