Text message program to reduce diabetes risk called qualified success

Dec. 19, 2013 at 4:51 PM

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Dec. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a program using text messages to motivate people to change behavior to reduce diabetes risk was successful -- for those who stuck with it.

While a majority of people in the customized texting service txt4health -- piloted in Detroit and Cincinnati last year -- said the free mobile education program made them more aware of their diabetes risk and more likely to make diet-related behavior changes, only 39 percent stuck through all 14 weeks, researchers at the University of Michigan reported Thursday.

"We found that this method of health intervention had potential to significantly influence people's health habits and have great reach -- however, sustained participant engagement across the 14 weeks was lower than desired," Lorraine R. Buis of the university's Department of Family Medicine said.

The txt4health initiative is a text message-based program that aims to lower type 2 diabetes risk by raising awareness and facilitating weekly self-monitoring of weight and physical activity.

Participants in the program were asked to answer background questions to get personalized health tips and recommendations over 14 weeks.

"It's clear that a text message program may not be appropriate for everyone; however, for a large subset of people, this may be a feasible, acceptable, and useful strategy to motivate positive behavior changes," Buis said. "We need to further explore ways to improve retention rates among participants."

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