Mobile phones provide an opportunity to access populations that are hard to reach and deliver health promotion interventions. mHealth is an abbreviation for mobile health, a term used for the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices. mHealth has a great potential to save lives of millions of people in the developing countries and also help access to many health care services for prevention and management of chronic diseases.
An example of mHealth is the Text4baby program that offers moms 3 free text messages per week throughout their pregnancy and until the baby is one year old. Text messages provide critical health tips timed to where the mom is in her pregnancy.
If you are thinking about implementing a mobile health campaign consider the following.
- Selection of group texting tools: Group text messages can be sent from a Web based dashboard offered by the vendor. These are some platform/tools available; ez texting, mobile commons, RapidSMS
The two most critical questions in deciding what type of social media tool to use are: Does the group need to be small or large? Does it need to be short lived or long lived? The number of people involved and duration of interaction are the two basic constraints of group action.
- Consider the following: How will participants interact with the system? What medium will the system rely on & why? How will the content of messages be developed & refined in the future? Analyzing the population needs will help to answer these questions and develop effective messages.
- Think about how to identify your audience. Understand that different audiences have different experiences and different worries. Know how to tailor your messages to your target audience. Follow this link to obtain tools and resources that can assist in the process of defining a target audience, adapting and localizing messages as well as selecting suitable technology platforms. These resources provide in-depth information on how organizations have developed and implemented mobile into maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) programs. Even if your cause is not around the topic of maternal, newborn and child health these documents are still useful to review.
An example of a successful program involving text messaging and diabetes management is the University of Chicago Medicine study. The study conducted a six-month texting study of people diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Educational text messages were sent with daily reminders to check blood sugar as well as nutrition and exercise tips. After six months, patients showed improved glycemic control and an 8.8% reduction in health care costs.