Advancing text messaging for health
By Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, HHS
Mobile technology and cell phones offer incredible opportunities to reach large segments of the U.S. population, including historically underserved populations, with important and potentially life-saving health information. In November 2009, HHS established the Text4Health Task Force to explore how to leverage the power of text messaging in particular to advance health. This Task Force explored best practices and lessons learned from existing health text messaging programs, including the Text4Baby program (www.text4baby.org), a public-private partnership led by a non-profit organization (the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies coalition) that provides free health text messages to pregnant women and new mothers.
To spur further innovation in health text messaging, the Task Force made several recommendations. One of the main recommendations is for HHS researchers to help create health text message libraries based on the best available science and to make these libraries open access, publicly available, and downloadable and usable by anyone. In the spirit of open government, we hope that this provides developers and innovators with the raw material for all kinds of creative applications, programs and services that can help improve health.
Initial libraries that we will be providing include a library just developed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) called QuitNowTXT, containing interactive and evidence-based smoking cessation text messages targeted to adult smokers. The QuitNowTXT text messages offer tips, motivation, encouragement and information tailored to the user’s responses. Innovators interested in leveraging the QuitNowTXT text message library can now download it at http://smokefree.gov/hp.aspx. And stay tuned for more libraries, coming soon (to Health.Data.gov)!
HHS is also pursuing opportunities to forge a global public-private partnership to make the QuitNowTXT program available to other countries to reach adult tobacco users. This initiative aims to collaborate with interested countries to support mHealth/text-based demonstration projects using this new text messaging resource. Drawing on the experience gained from these demonstration projects, the countries and partners will identify and disseminate best practices for tobacco cessation mHealth/text-based interventions.
Check out the full Task Force recommendations at www.hhs.gov/open and let us know what you think. As per the recommendations, we’ve established a new mHealth Community of Practice at HHS that will continue to explore and formulate how HHS can best support the use of text messaging and mobile technology to improve health, building upon the work of the Task Force. We’d love to dial your input into what we do going forward!
I would like to inquire about the latest Text4Health recommendations and your Text4Health Task Force which were posted online. I leade Community Outreach at the University of Maryland Medical Center and am currently a doctoral student at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. My capstone is on the feasibility of using text messaging to promote the adherence to daily physical guidelines in adults. I am preparing to defend my proposal in another month or so, with implementation in the spring. I would absolutely love to talk with someone who is also involved in this topic, as it is my personal/professional passion. I had previously contacted the HHS Media Relations office but have not heard back from them and then found your name online. My apologies, as I don't know the point of contact, please direct me to the appropriate individual. I would love to partner or become involved in any way. If it is possible to attend a future Task Force meeting, that would be helpful as well. Thank you, Anne D. Williams, RN, MS Manager, Patient Resource Center University of Maryland Medical Center 410-328-0910 firstname.lastname@example.org
The blog post ends with "Check out the full Task Force recommendations at www.hhs.gov/open and let us know what you think. As per the recommendations, weâ€™ve established a new mHealth Community of Practice at HHS that will continue to explore and formulate how HHS can best support the use of text messaging and mobile technology to improve health, building upon the work of the Task Force. Weâ€™d love to dial your input into what we do going forward!" How is the government seeking private sector input? It is not clear. The recommendations only address a list serve open to HHS staff.
As someone who works in a health-related field (own an insurance agency - http://medicare-supplement.us), I use text messaging every day as a part of my communication with customers and stakeholders. It is a misconception that only certain demographics or age groups are "accessible" by text messaging. I work with those over 65, exclusively, and see the benefits of reaching them by this technology on a daily basis. Many of them are using their cell phones, text messaging, etc. to stay in touch with their children and grandchildren. It is non-invasive, brief and promptly received. To me, there are few, if any, downsides to HHS integrating this in their communications with people of all ages.