When the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene piloted a smoking cessation text messaging campaign, they got remarkable results. Not only did the text campaign double quite rates in heavy smokers, it also greatly decreased the likelihood of smoking again for certain groups.
Here’s how it worked. The NYC Department of Health always offers free smoking cessation help via their 311 city hotline. During the trial, when people called 311 for help they could also opt in for the text program.
The method was simple but effective. For six weeks, messages of encouragement alternated with tips like “Meet, greet, and defeat your triggers, don’t hide from them.” The texts were sent on a unique schedule for each participant – targeted to each individual’s quit date, so the right words of support could come at the right time. And segmented messaging allowed different programs for Spanish speakers or under-18 age groups.
The results were outstanding. People in the text messaging pilot were compared with a control who group did not receive the messages. 53% of heavy smokers quit vs. 25% of the control group, 43% vs. 29% in males, and 47% vs. 35% in 26-35-year-olds.
It’s this kind of personalized, immediate communication that makes mobile such an effective tool for behavior change. We’ve watched mobile help people report unsafe conditions, motivate healthy parenting, and make parents likelier to vaccinate their children. And because of results like these, more and more health organizations are starting to incorporate texting into their programs.