Usability and Acceptability of a Conversational Agent Health Education App (Nthabi) for Young Women in Lesotho: Quantitative Study

Elizabeth Nkabane-Nkholongo*, Mathildah Mpata-Mokgatle, Brian W. Jack, Clevanne Julce, Timothy Bickmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Young women in Lesotho face myriad sexual and reproductive health problems. There is little time to provide health education to women in low-resource settings with critical shortages of human resources for health. Objective: This study aims to determine the acceptability and usability of a conversational agent system, the Nthabi health promotion app, which was culturally adapted for use in Lesotho. Methods: We conducted a descriptive quantitative study, using a 22-item Likert scale survey to assess the perceptions of the usability and acceptability of 172 young women aged 18-28 years in rural districts of Lesotho, who used the system on either smartphones or tablets for up to 6 weeks. Descriptive statistics were used to calculate the averages and frequencies of the variables. χ2 tests were used to determine any associations among variables. Results: A total of 138 participants were enrolled and completed the survey. The mean age was 22 years, most were unmarried, 56 (40.6%) participants had completed high school, 39 (28.3%) participants were unemployed, and 88 (63.8%) participants were students. Respondents believed the app was helpful, with 134 (97.1%) participants strongly agreeing or agreeing that the app was “effective in helping them make decisions” and “could quickly improve health education and counselling.” In addition, 136 (98.5%) participants strongly agreed or agreed that the app was “simple to use,” 130 (94.2 %) participants reported that Nthabi could “easily repeat words that were not well understood,” and 128 (92.7%) participants reported that the app “could quickly load the information on the screen.” Respondents were generally satisfied with the app, with 132 (95.6%) participants strongly agreeing or agreeing that the health education content delivered by the app was “well organised and delivered in a timely way,” while 133 (96.4%) participants “enjoyed using the interface.” They were satisfied with the cultural adaptation, with 133 (96.4%) participants strongly agreeing or agreeing that the app was “culturally appropriate and that it could be easily shared with a family or community members.” They also reported that Nthabi was worthwhile, with 127 (92%) participants reporting that they strongly agreed or agreed that they were “satisfied with the application and intended to continue using it,” while 135 (97.8%) participants would “encourage others to use it.” Participants aged 18-24 years (vs those aged 25-28 years) agreed that the “Nthabi app was simple to use” (106/106, 100% vs 30/32, 98.8%; P=.01), and agreed that “the educational content was well organised and delivered in a timely way” (104/106, 98.1% vs 28/32, 87.5%; P=.01). Conclusions: These results support further study of conversational agent systems as alternatives to traditional face-to-face provision of health education services in Lesotho, where there are critical shortages of human resources for health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere52048
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Keywords

  • acceptability
  • app
  • application
  • applications
  • conversational agent technology
  • education
  • health education in Africa
  • health information
  • health information technology
  • health promotion
  • mHealth adaptation
  • preconception care
  • survey
  • usability
  • woman
  • women
  • women's health
  • women’s health education
  • young women

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