Feasibility and Acceptability of Smartphone-Based Ecological Momentary Assessment of Alcohol Use among African American Men Who Have Sex with Men in Baltimore

Cui Yang, Beth Linas, Gregory Kirk, Robert Bollinger, Larry Chang, Geetanjali Chander, Daniel Siconolfi, Sharif Braxton, Abby Rudolph, Carl Latkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Background: Alcohol use is a risk factor for the acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among African American men who have sex with men (MSM). Mobile phone-based ecological momentary assessments (EMA) could minimize bias due to retrospective recall and thus provide a better understanding of the social and structural context of alcohol use and its relationship with HIV-related risk behaviors in this population as well as other highly stigmatized populations. Objective: We describe the study design and the implementation, feasibility, reactivity, and acceptability of an EMA study of alcohol use and HIV-related behaviors among African American MSM in Baltimore. Methods: Participants were recruited through flyers and word-of-mouth in Baltimore from September 2013 to November 2014. Each participant was loaned an Android smartphone and instructed to respond to multiple prompts from the mobile app for 4 weeks. Data were collected through (1) random prompts delivered three times daily assessing participants' location, activity, mood, and social context, (2) daily prompts capturing drinking and sex events occurring in the past 24 hours, and (3) event-contingent responses collecting participants' self-reported episodes of drinking. Results: A total of 16 participants enrolled in the study. The current analyses focused on 15 participants who completed at least 24 days of follow-up (mean follow-up time 29 days; range 24-35 days). Study participants (N=15) were a median 38 years of age (range 27-62 years) with low levels of income and educational attainment. Ten individuals self-reported living with HIV/AIDS, over half reported drinking alcohol at least 2-3 times a week, and a third reported binge drinking (ie, 6 or more drinks on one occasion) on a weekly basis. Based on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score, nearly half were classified as hazardous drinkers (score 8-15) and a fifth were likely dependent (score ≥16). A total of 140 participant-initiated events were reported, and 75% of 1308 random prompts and 81% of 436 daily prompts delivered were answered. Of seven devices used during the study, five were reported lost by participants. We did not observe strong reactivity effects, and self-reported acceptability to study procedures was uniformly favorable. Conclusions: This study provides evidence to support the feasibility and acceptability of using EMA methods for collecting data on alcohol use among African American men who have sex with men living in urban settings. These data provide the basis for future studies of EMA-informed mHealth interventions to promote the reduction of substance use and HIV risk-taking behaviors among African American MSM living in urban settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere67
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2015


  • African American
  • Alcohol use
  • Ecological momentary assessment (ema)
  • HIV
  • Men who have sex with men (msm)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


Dive into the research topics of 'Feasibility and Acceptability of Smartphone-Based Ecological Momentary Assessment of Alcohol Use among African American Men Who Have Sex with Men in Baltimore'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this