Mobile texting campaigns have changed the way public health campaigns operate in developed, but more importantly, in developing countries. The UN Foundation released a report called Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in Mobile Use by NGOs. The report highlights a survey done in 2007/2008 of NGO workers which highlighted some interesting trends:
- 86% of NGO employees use mobile technology in their work
- 25% said that mobile technology has completely revolutionized the way their organization does business
- Another 31% reported it would be difficult to do their jobs without mobile technology
The UN report provides detailed case studies on text messaging campaigns to promote public health from a wide variety of topics from connecting youth to sexual health information, to using text messaging as a violence prevention tool, and even for environmental monitoring and conservation. Text message campaigns have been used for weight loss, quitting smoking, and helping people remember to take their prescriptions.
Spreading Information in an Emergency
But one of the most effective uses of texting campaigns is for emergencies. By its definition, mobile technology is just that – mobile. Which means that during an emergency, you can send information rapidly to people without worrying if they are at home. It’s also easier to send and receive text messages in an emergency. The FCC recommends texting, which can go through when calls may not, while also helping to free up ‘space’ on the telephone network for emergency communications. The CDC has even pre-developed a number of emergency text messages that are the correct length and contain contact information.
Check out this SMS campaign in Senegal that spread Ebola awareness, which was developed off of a platform originally designed to help people manage their diabetes through a WHO initiative called “Be Hea@lthy Be mobile”.
Some of the messages sent via text included:
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly (in picture above).
- Avoid all contact with people who are sick with or have died from Ebola.
- Do not touch or eat the meat of dead or sick animals (monkey, rat, warthog, porcupine, pork).
Texting campaigns have been used to promote a wide range of public health topics, and are really only limited by your creativity. What public health messages will you use a text message campaign to promote?