Health interventions using mobile phones and related technologies are growing worldwide and some research is suggesting that text messaging can be one strategy to support behaviour change in areas ranging from quitting smoking to HIV testing to healthy living.
The text4baby program launched in the United States in February 2010 and has enrolled more than 700,000 participants. The service delivers text messages to pregnant women and new mothers on a schedule timed to the baby’s due date or birth date.
There have been a number of studies evaluating the program (see here) and the program is expanding to include dads. A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research mhealth and uhealth takes a closer look at the effects of the program in the context of the US military by conducting a randomized trial with pregnant female soldiers and family members. One of the key questions the researchers were interested in was alcohol consumption: “Since you found out about your pregnancy, have you consumed alcoholic beverages?”
In total, there were six messages related to risks of alcohol consumption, including both recommendations not to drink and warnings about the risk of FASD. The researchers found a dose-response relationship, with higher levels of text message exposure predicting lower self-reported alcohol consumption. The text4baby participants also reported lower quantities of alcohol consumed postpartum.
This study suggests that text messaging can be an effective brief intervention for addressing prenatal alcohol use. For more on this topic, see an earlier post: Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service in Tanzania (December 17, 2013).
Evans, W., Nielsen, P.E., Szekely, D.R., Bihm, J.W., Murray, E.A., Snider, J., and Abroms, L.C. (2015). Dose-Response Effects of the Text4baby Mobile Health Program: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR mHealth uHealth, 3(1):e12. DOI: 10.2196/mhealth.3909. PMID: 25630361. (Open Access)