Kapeller, A., Loosman, I. Empowerment through health self-testing apps? Revisiting empowerment as a process. Med Health Care and Philos 26, 143–152 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11019-022-10132-w
Empowerment, an already central concept in public health, has gained additional relevance through the expansion of mobile health (mHealth). Especially direct-to-consumer self-testing app companies mobilise the term to advertise their products, which allow users to self-test for various medical conditions independent of healthcare professionals. This article first demonstrates the absence of empowerment conceptualisations in the context of self-testing apps by engaging with empowerment literature. It then contrasts the service these apps provide with two widely cited empowerment definitions by the WHO, which describe the term as a process that, broadly, leads to knowledge and control of health decisions. We conclude that self-testing apps can only partly empower their users, as they, we argue, do not provide the type of knowledge and control the WHO definitions describe. More importantly, we observe that this shortcoming stems from the fact that in the literature on mHealth and in self-testing marketing, empowerment is understood as a goal rather than a process. This characterises a shift in the meaning of empowerment in the context of self-testing and mHealth, one that reveals a lack of awareness for relational and contextual factors that contribute to empowerment. We argue that returning to a process-understanding of empowerment helps to identify these apps’ deficits, and we conclude the article by briefly suggesting several strategies to increase self-testing apps’ empowerment function.
Find it here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11019-022-10132-w#Abs1