mHealth -Enhancing access to health information

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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.

Text4babypic

If you are thinking about implementing a mobile health campaign consider the following.

  1. 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
  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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.

diabetes-texting-1018

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4 thoughts on “mHealth -Enhancing access to health information

  1. Great job! very informative. I actually read a few posts which mention the text4baby campaign, I am guessing it is very popular and successful. My favorite part of your article was how instead of describing how one might construct a useful text message for public health, you actually showed a screen shot of it on the phone. It really drove home your point, and illustrated how the result would look for the end user, making the whole idea really come to life. Thanks for the insightful post Maria.

    • Hi Jennifer, thank you! I actually proposed the use of this text4baby text messages as part of a program to reduce the pertussis (whooping cough) rates that were very high in Placer County. The text messages assisted with this by increasing reminders and education on the whooping cough vaccine.

  2. Great job on this very informative post! Pregnant women are the population that I personally have limited experiences serving as a healthcare professional. Thanks for sharing this information; I now can share this with anyone who is pregnant or who wants to become pregnant so that they will be able to obtain more information. Information is power! Also, thanks for the advice on implementing a mobile health campaign. Very practical and to-the-point.

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