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Health & Families

TXT 4 health: well-being, global health, chronic disease management

An emerging global trend shows health professionals and individuals are managing health with text messages that range from daily reminders to drink enough water to prenatal care. 


On July 30, Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, USA outlined an ongoing pilot study that uses texting to keep diabetic youth on track with their meds. The texts included "personalized questions and reminders" addressing "glucose testing, meal boluses [insulin treatments] and frequency of high and low glucoses" plus "friendly, supportive messages" to patients. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WinDPSY59EA

text4baby is a US-based service that works to promote healthy pregnancies and decrease infant mortality rates. The service is free and simple to use. A mom-to-be texts ‘BABY' (or ‘BEBE' for Spanish) to 511411 and will receive texts weekly until the baby's first birthday. The texts include tips on how to eat healthy and checkup reminders. http://text4baby.org

Childcount+ is "an mHealth (mobile health) platform developed by the  Millennium Villages Project aimed at empowering communities to improve child survival and maternal health." Community health workers (CHW) have been using ChildCount+ in Kenya to register patients and monitor their health. "SMS reports" also track the wellbeing of communities by monitoring malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, pneumonia, child immunization, prenatal care, follow-up alerts, clinical diagnosis, lab results and record all births and deaths. http://www.childcount.org

Additionally there is a UK-based service Feel Good Texts to help you quit smoking, promote healthy habits and stress reduction with daily texts. The service costs £5 (€6) for 14 texts in two weeks or £10 (€12) 31 texts a month. http://www.feelgoodtexts.com

Texting health results especially sexually transmitted diseases has been used in the UK for over five years by the National Health Service (NHS), however in New Zealand researchers found that "text messaging results did not reduce time to treatment of Chlamydia trachomatis," published in the international peer-reviewed journal Sexually Transmitted Inflections: http://sti.bmj.com/content/84/7/563.abstract

This year, the Spanish telecommunications mulitnational Telefónica O2 Health Network started offering a range of health "messaging" products that includes appointment reminders, prescription and medication reminders, health promotion, test results and internal communications.

It was estimated in 2005 that sending texts for just appointment reminders in England can save NHS £240-370 (€290-446) million a year by researchers at Tanaka Business School at Imperial College in London. http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/portal/pls/portallive/docs/1/5375912.PDF