Ethics considerations in global mobile phone-based surveys of noncommunicable diseases:A conceptual exploration

Joseph Ali, Alain B. Labrique, Kara Gionfriddo, George Pariyo, Dustin G. Gibson, Bridget Pratt, Molly Deutsch-Feldman, Adnan A. Hyder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Mobile phone coverage has grown, particularly within low-And middle-income countries (LMICs), presenting an opportunity to augment routine health surveillance programs. Several LMICs and global health partners are seeking opportunities to launch basic mobile phone-based surveys of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The increasing use of such technology in LMICs brings forth a cluster of ethical challenges; however, much of the existing literature regarding the ethics of mobile or digital health focuses on the use of technologies in high-income countries and does not consider directly the specific ethical issues associated with the conduct of mobile phone surveys (MPS) for NCD risk factor surveillance in LMICs. In this paper, we explore conceptually several of the central ethics issues in this domain, which mainly track the three phases of the MPS process: predata collection, during data collection, and postdata collection. These include identifying the nature of the activity; stakeholder engagement; appropriate design; anticipating and managing potential harms and benefits; consent; reaching intended respondents; data ownership, access and use; and ensuring LMIC sustainability. We call for future work to develop an ethics framework and guidance for the use of mobile phones for disease surveillance globally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere110
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Bioethics
  • Ethics
  • Mhealth
  • Mobile phone survey
  • Noncommunicable diseases
  • Research ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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