Txt4health: A New Way to Control Diabetes?

NursingMarch 23, 2014

When it comes to the risks of and the need to control diabetes, a simple, straightforward method can often be the most beneficial. When considering an entire population that is at risk of developing diabetes, a new way of communicating and informing is necessary. From this need arose the project "txt4health," a pilot program that went live in three cities to help at-risk populations become more aware of their risk of developing diabetes.

How Does it Work?

The txt4health program followed in the footsteps of another successful program, txt4baby, which currently has over 100,000 participants. The idea behind txt4health was to design a personalized, interactive text message that a participant would receive once a week. After answering a few questions to determine the participant's risk for diabetes, a text is sent to the participant's phone with recommendations for healthy swaps, 30-day challenges for health, and goal-setting for diet, physical activity and weight loss.

Positive Preliminary Feedback

This is a unique way to attempt to curb the growth of diabetes diagnosis, as it provides straightforward advice in a non-threatening way. According to a Journal of Medical Internet Research survey that was conducted after the 14-week program concluded, 100% of respondents found that the text messages were easy to understand, with approximately 75% of respondents saying they made some kind of change in their lives to reduce their chance of developing diabetes.

Not Quite Perfect

The program does have it's flaws, though. According to the study, there was an issue with participants dropping out of the program with only 39% seeing it through the entire 14-week program. Additionally, the sustainability of the program is in question; money and manpower supporting it were sponsored by insurance companies, some corporations and public health funds. Unless the program is shown to definitively control diabetes, then it is unlikely to receive continued support.

How Does it Help Nurses?

Furthermore, from a nursing standpoint, txt4health should be used in conjunction with regular check-ups with a physician, a healthy diet and physical activity — not as a primary method to control diabetes. It appears to be an excellent way to motivate participants who are already committed to improving their health, but further research is needed to improve retention rates and truly assess the effectiveness of the program.

Nursing has a responsibility to public welfare, and with diabetes at epidemic proportions, innovations like txt4health are an important part of stemming the tide. Education, motivation and accessibility are priorities for nurses and this program appears to address them all. Nursing should continue to advocate for such programs if they are shown to be effective and to develop new ways to influence patients to make positive changes to impact their health.

Photo Source: Flickr