California Department of Public Health Lets People Text to Find the Closest Vaccination


Challenge: How do you get vital clinic information to Californians, targeted around their location?

During the H1N1 scare in 2009, the California Department of Public Health wanted to help citizens get vaccinated against the virus. They had a database of all the places where Californians could go to get the vaccine. The problem was – they had no simple way for people to access that information.

Solution: Let people text in to find the closest clinic near them

Working with Mobile Commons, the Department created a mobile database that let people text in to find not just a complete list of clinics – but to find the clinic closest to them.

They asked people to text in NOFLU or their zip code to 30644. Then they would be directed to the closest flu clinic near them. They also received the clinic’s address, a phone number, and its hours of operation.

The mobile short code was promoted on all of the CDPH’s materials – including bus advertisements (below).

Results: 33% of respondents got the shot at the recommended location – and that was just the beginning

A week after texting to find a vaccine, people were sent a message asking if they indeed got vaccinated at the location suggested. If someone responded “no,” they were asked why not. Over 50% of the people that were surveyed responded to the text. 33% of the respondents confirmed they got a flu shot at the recommended location. As to why respondents did not get the shot, 40% said they would get the shot later, and 17% got vaccinated elsewhere.

“Getting a flu shot” is one of those nebulous tasks that people know is good for them, but for which they’re often not willing to disturb their routine. That’s especially true for an unfamiliar threat like H1N1, which we may read about in the papers or hear about on the news, but with which we have no real contact in our daily lives.

The California Department of Public Health transformed the somewhat abstract “get a flu shot” to “get a flu shot in your neighborhood, right now.” They turned healthy behavior into a convenient and achievable daily task that citizens could take.

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