Background: With thousands of health apps in app stores globally, it is crucial to systemically and thoroughly evaluate the quality of these apps due to their potential influence on health decisions and outcomes. The Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS) is the only currently available tool that provides a comprehensive, multidimensional evaluation of app quality, which has been used to compare medical apps from American and European app stores in various areas, available in English, Italian, Spanish, and German. However, this tool is not available in Arabic.
Objective: This study aimed to translate and adapt MARS to Arabic and validate the tool with a sample of health apps aimed at managing or preventing obesity and associated disorders.
Methods: We followed a well-established and defined “universalist” process of cross-cultural adaptation using a mixed methods approach. Early translations of the tool, accompanied by confirmation of the contents by two rounds of separate discussions, were included and culminated in a final version, which was then back-translated into English. Two trained researchers piloted the MARS in Arabic (MARS-Ar) with a sample of 10 weight management apps obtained from Google Play and the App Store. Interrater reliability was established using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs). After reliability was ascertained, the two researchers independently evaluated a set of additional 56 apps.
Results: MARS-Ar was highly aligned with the original English version. The ICCs for MARS-Ar (0.836, 95% CI 0.817-0.853) and MARS English (0.838, 95% CI 0.819-0.855) were good. The MARS-Ar subscales were highly correlated with the original counterparts (P<.001). The lowest correlation was observed in the area of usability (r=0.685), followed by aesthetics (r=0.827), information quality (r=0.854), engagement (r=0.894), and total app quality (r=0.897). Subjective quality was also highly correlated (r=0.820).
Conclusions: MARS-Ar is a valid instrument to assess app quality among trained Arabic-speaking users of health and fitness apps. Researchers and public health professionals in the Arab world can use the overall MARS score and its subscales to reliably evaluate the quality of weight management apps. Further research is necessary to test the MARS-Ar on apps addressing various health issues, such as attention or anxiety prevention, or sexual and reproductive health.
- App evaluation
- App quality
- Arab world
- Mobile app
- Mobile app rating scale
- Validation studies as topic