Today’s post is a blog by Tayla that explores the other side of the cellphone health story – texting. This week we discussed apps in our webinar and how to utilize these applications on your smartphones and tablets but there are also health organizations utilizing text messaging to reach their audiences. One of the best parts of mhealth (mobile health) is that orgs are discovering and pursuing ways to reach out to a much wider demographic (even internationally) and allow a wider range of patients and caregivers to become empowered. Personally I’m psyched to learn more about this and watch how mhealth evolves. –Amanda
Connect to Your (Mobile) Health
Are you ready for a revolution?
If so, be prepared to see an explosion in mobile health (mhealth) technology. Cell phones are now quickly becoming an integral part of healthcare, with new health and medical apps quickly exploding in mobile markets. But mhealth goes beyond just mobile apps; now it includes texting as well.
Sites such as text4baby.org offer healthcare tips, delivered via SMS, to pregnant women and new mothers. Simply text the word BABY (or BEBE for Spanish speakers) to 511411, along with your baby’s due date or birthday, and you’ll receive information on pregnancy and caring for your baby.
For women who are not yet pregnant, but are trying to conceive, babycenter.com’s “Booty Caller” may be helpful. The site will send 3 ovulation alerts per menstrual cycle right to your phone, letting you know when you are most fertile. They also offer pregnancy tips and will send parenting tips until three months after the baby is born.
Some organizations are taking texting for health one step further and engaging in SMS-based public health campaigns. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have teamed up with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to expand the use of IT in diabetes management. They even used Text4baby as their model.
Cities and countries are getting in on mobile health technology as well. San Francisco recently launched SexinfoSF.org, a text messaged based service for youth in the Bay Area. The text messages include information about safe sex, STDs, peer pressure, and more. The texts even include numbers and addresses for health clinics. Australia has launched a similar campaign – Sextxt.org.au aims to provide contraceptive and sexual health information to teenagers.
The texting for health initiative isn’t entirely new, however. The Kaiser Family Foundation launched their “KnowIt” campaign back in 2007. Cell phone users can text their zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948) and receive information about HIV testing centers near them. And Diet.com started offering weight loss support texts in 2008. The site allowed users to type in the name of a restaurant and menu item and receive its nutritional information.
So what do all of these different campaigns and initiatives mean for health activists and our communities?
One benefit of the rise of mobile health technology is that it allows information to be distributed cheaply to those who may not have had access otherwise. Most, if not all, of the text-based campaigns are free, and the only fees are those that may be required by the wireless carrier. In the case of Text4baby, their partnering with the Wireless Foundation allows them to bypass even carrier-imposed fees.
Mobile health technology also has the potential to reach a vast amount of people. In the U.S. alone, nearly 300 million people now have cell phones. This means that SMS-based health information is capable of reaching over 90 percent of the population.
In our increasingly fast-paced, technology-driven lives, we often make excuses for why we don’t do certain things, such as visit the doctor or maintain weight loss goals. But with health information available in seconds with just a text message, we really can’t use these excuses anymore. As activists and patients alike, we now have the power to control and maintain our health, literally, in the palm of our hands.
What, if any, health texts do you or your community subscribe to? What information do you wish was available via text messaging?