Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Finally a Productive Use for the Ubiquitous SMS Message

Finally a Productive Use for the Ubiquitous SMS Message

Project Manager

Previously on the Healthyist, we've talked about the power of mHealth (mobile health) to reach our consumers where they are, but the field is new, and there isn't yet a significant evidence base. As readers may have noticed, my interests lie in tobacco control and cessation. There are a few programs out there in the United States that use text messages, rather than a mobile app or mobile web, to not only get a message across, but to actually deliver health interventions: Text4Baby, Text2Quit, HealthTxts, SmokefreeTXT, SmokefreeMOM , Care4Life.

Until very recently, there had been no studies conducted in the United States that evaluated smoking cessation texting programs, all of which are relatively new (within the past 5 years or so). But in 2011, Dr. Caroline Free, et al., performed a randomized controlled trial on the program she developed in the UK called Txt2Stop. In the trial, they found that for those using the Txt2Stop program, the chemically verified abstinence from smoking at 6 months out was more than twice that of quitters in the control group!

Although there have been two quit-smoking texting programs available in the United States for several years, the results of a new study performed by Dr. Lorien Abroms of The George Washington University have now replicated the results of the 2011 study in the UK: Text2Quit. The study shows, once again, that using a texting program to deliver a quit-smoking intervention is about twice as effective as traditional quit-smoking materials.

But why is that? It's likely because users of the programs get frequent reminders of their goal to stop smoking, along with tips and advice help them. And it comes directly to your mobile phone-a device that we invite to interrupt our lives. By providing constant feedback, information, reminders, and 24/7 support, text-message interventions have the potential to reach huge numbers of people to help them achieve their health goals.

What health behavior will be the next to be delivered to our phones?

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