A growing body of literature affirms the usefulness of mobile technologies, including mobile applications (apps), in the primary prevention field. The quality of health apps, which today number in the thousands, is a crucial parameter, as it may affect health-related decision-making and outcomes among app end-users. The mobile application rating scale (MARS) has recently been developed to evaluate the quality of such apps, and has shown good psychometric properties. Since there is no standardised tool for assessing the apps available in Italian app stores, the present study developed and validated an Italian version of MARS in apps targeting primary prevention.
The original 23-item version of the MARS assesses mobile app quality in four objective quality dimensions (engagement, functionality, aesthetics, information) and one subjective dimension. Validation of this tool involved several steps; the universalist approach to achieving equivalence was adopted. Following two backward translations, a reconciled Italian version of MARS was produced and compared with the original scale. On the basis of sample size estimation, 48 apps from three major app stores were downloaded; the first 5 were used for piloting, while the remaining 43 were used in the main study in order to assess the psychometric properties of the scale. The apps were assessed by two raters, each working independently. The psychometric properties of the final version of the scale was assessed including the inter-rater reliability, internal consistency, convergent, divergent and concurrent validities.
The intralingual equivalence of the Italian version of the MARS was confirmed by the authors of the original scale. A total of 43 apps targeting primary prevention were tested. The MARS displayed acceptable psychometric properties. The MARS total score showed an excellent level of both inter-rater agreement (intra-class correlation coefficient of .96) and internal consistency (Cronbach's α of .90 and .91 for the two raters, respectively). Other types of validity, including convergent, divergent, discriminative, known-groups and scalability, were also established.
The Italian version of MARS is a valid and reliable tool for assessing the health-related primary prevention apps available in Italian app stores.