Translational Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 53-71

First online:

Health behavior models in the age of mobile interventions: are our theories up to the task?

  • William T RileyAffiliated withNational Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH Email author 
  • , Daniel E RiveraAffiliated withSchool for Engineering of Matter, Transport, and Energy, Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, Arizona State University
  • , Audie A AtienzaAffiliated withNational Institute of Health, National Cancer Institute
  • , Wendy NilsenAffiliated withOffice of Behavioral and Social Science Research, NIH
  • , Susannah M AllisonAffiliated withNational Institute of Mental Health, NIH
  • , Robin MermelsteinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Public Health, Health Research and Policy Center, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Mobile technologies are being used to deliver health behavior interventions. The study aims to determine how health behavior theories are applied to mobile interventions. This is a review of the theoretical basis and interactivity of mobile health behavior interventions. Many of the mobile health behavior interventions reviewed were predominately one way (i.e., mostly data input or informational output), but some have leveraged mobile technologies to provide just-in-time, interactive, and adaptive interventions. Most smoking and weight loss studies reported a theoretical basis for the mobile intervention, but most of the adherence and disease management studies did not. Mobile health behavior intervention development could benefit from greater application of health behavior theories. Current theories, however, appear inadequate to inform mobile intervention development as these interventions become more interactive and adaptive. Dynamic feedback system theories of health behavior can be developed utilizing longitudinal data from mobile devices and control systems engineering models.


Mobile phones Handheld computers Health behavior interventions Smoking cessation Weight management Adherence Chronic disease management Health behavior theory Dynamical systems Control systems engineering