Use of geofencing interventions in population health research: a scoping review

Karin Tobin, Omeid Heidari, Connor Volpi, Shereen Sodder, Dustin Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives Technological advancements that use global positioning system (GPS), such as geofencing, provide the opportunity to examine place-based context in population health research. This review aimed to systematically identify, assess and synthesise the existing evidence on geofencing intervention design, acceptability, feasibility and/or impact. Design Scoping review, using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews guidance for reporting. Data sources PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, Web of Science, Cochrane and PsycINFO for articles in English published up to 31 December 2021. Eligibility criteria Articles were included if geofencing was used as a mechanism for intervention delivery. Exclusion criteria: (1) a component or combination of GPS, geographical information system or ecological momentary assessment was used without delivery of an intervention; (2) did not include a health or health-related outcome from the geofencing intervention; or (3) was not a peer-reviewed study. Data extraction and synthesis Several researchers independently reviewed all abstracts and full-text articles for final inclusion. Results A total of 2171 articles were found; after exclusions, nine studies were included in the review. The majority were published in 5 years preceding the search (89%). Geofences in most studies (n=5) were fixed and programmed in the mobile application carried by participants without their input. Mechanisms of geofencing interventions were classified as direct or indirect, with five studies (56%) using direct interventions. There were several different health outcomes (from smoking to problematic alcohol use) across the five studies that used a direct geofencing intervention. Conclusions This scoping review found geofencing to be an emerging technology that is an acceptable and feasible intervention applied to several different populations and health outcomes. Future studies should specify the rationale for the locations that are geofenced and user input. Moreover, attention to mechanisms of actions will enable scientists to understand not only whether geofencing is an appropriate and effective intervention but why it works to achieve the outcomes observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere069374
JournalBMJ open
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 3 2023


  • epidemiology
  • HIV & AIDS
  • mental health
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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