Advice Delivered Via Text Messaging Helps Diabetic Patients

Texting can be good for your health, ASMOF (as a matter of fact), according to recently published research.

A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research illustrates how the txt4health initiative, a free mobile texting education program, made diabetics more aware of their condition and more apt to make diet-related behavior changes and lose weight.  The txt4health initiative is a large, public health focused text message-based program that aims to raise type 2 diabetes risk awareness, as well as facilitate weekly weight and physical activity self-monitoring to lower diabetes risk. After answering background questions, participants receive personalized health tips and recommendations for the next 14 weeks.

Most participants reported that after completing the program, they were more likely to replace sugary drinks with water (78 percent), have a piece of fresh fruit instead of dessert (74 percent), substitute a small salad for chips or fries when dining out (76 percent), buy healthier foods when grocery shopping (80 percent), and eat more grilled, baked, or broiled foods instead of fried (76 percent).

Although the program seemed to work well for those who completed it, only 39 percent stuck through all 14 weeks.

"We found that this method of health intervention had potential to significantly influence people's health habits and have great reach – however, sustained participant engagement across the 14 weeks was lower than desired," said lead author Lorraine R. Buis, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. “Text message programs may be a useful tool when used as a component in a broad-based public health campaign. However, sole reliance on this strategy may be cautioned when targeting a general population because the level of individual engagement widely varies. We need to further explore ways to improve retention rates among participants.”