Lessons from a Successful Mobile Public Health Campaign: Text4baby


Everywhere you go, people have their heads buried and eyes glued on their phones.  In order to take advantage of all of this valuable view time, public health campaigns have begun to reach wider and more targeted audiences via text.  The bus ride across town, or the wait at the grocery store can be turned into important teachable moments and outreach, especially for those lacking access to full healthcare services.

Milk-smile_ODHD-flickrWhy Text Messages?

  • Americans living in or around poverty levels are more likely to be cellphone-only homes
  • Minorities text more often than Caucasians, which can be valuable to help close the gap in racial health disparities
  • 99% of texts are opened
  • The average response time for a text is 90 seconds
  • Texts have a click-through rate 4 times that of email


Text4baby is a successful public health campaign that has partnered with private stakeholders to maximize the impact of prenatal and postpartum information to mothers who live rurally and have fewer resources for education.  Text messages are sent to images-2pregnant women about diet, exercise, smoking cessation, pregnancy expectations and other prenatal care issues.  The texts carry a message with links and phone numbers for more information. The campaign credits its success by having:

  • A non-controversial topic
  • Simple messages designed for low-literacy levels
  • A targeted audience
  • An affiliation with the CDC for consistent, credible information
  • Only 1 action point per message
  • No more than 3 messages per week
  • Stating “Free Msg” so users know they are not charged

The program has undergone extensive evaluation; it has shown connection with its target audience and those who have demonstrated behavior modifications (.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/225http)

For more helpful tips, see the CDC’s Guide for Writing for Social Media


4 thoughts on “Lessons from a Successful Mobile Public Health Campaign: Text4baby

  1. I found your statistics on text messaging really interesting. Maybe public health professionals should adopt and leverage this strategy for urgent issues such as infectious disease outbreaks as well. I thought you made great use of images, and I liked how you guided the users to additional information for those that want to explore the topic more.

  2. This is an awesome example. I can only imagine that campaigns like this will become more and more common. I would be interested to see a few others that are doing well.

  3. Thanks for featuring this example, Jenna! I appreciated that you began with reasons why to use text messages, and then ended with a specific case. I also really liked the bullet points with reasons why the program has been successful; these are great tips to keep in mind when considering starting or planning a text message program. For me, the number/time guidelines seem the most important- 1 action item per text and no more than 3 per week. This keeps it manageable from a user perspective. In thinking about all of the different social media, mobile, web, etc. areas we have covered in this course, I worry that blasting people from all of these sources will lead to audience burn out and disengagement. However, if kept to carefully curated and targeted like this example, we can still be successful.

  4. Jenna, a nice analysis of a fairly successful program. You very succinctly express the advantages of such an approach and some of the specific attributes of Text4Baby that have made it successful (and included a reference!). I think some of the bullet points you highlight had more to do with the success than others, however — the “keep it simple, stupid” approach probably the strongest, and it might have been nice to analyze what are the most salient attributes. Still, a good choice for a program that really does have evidence supporting its mobile platform.

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