Four Ways to Build Healthier Communities with Text Messaging


When you hear the words ‘text messaging’, you probably think about personal conversations you have with friends and family. But when used on a larger scale, text messaging has the potential to connect and impact entire communities. Text messaging is the most effective way to reach everyone, especially underserved populations, young people, and minorities.

Here are four ways your organization can build healthier communities with text messaging.

1. Help People Find Resources Close to Them

Text messaging can motivate more people to access and use local resources by helping them find the ones closest to them. Citizens can text in their zip code to receive the location of the nearest health facility in a matter of seconds using a text message locator service. People are more likely to take action sooner and keep their health in check if they receive relevant information instantly on their phones.

In 2009, during the H1N1 flu virus outbreak, the California Department of Public Health wanted to help citizens get vaccinated against the virus as soon as possible. The “Stop H1N1” flu vaccine campaign allowed people to text in their zip code to locate the nearest flu shot provider. Over 1,000 people texted in to find out where they could get vaccinated within the first three days of the campaign. Following the campaign, the CDPH sent out a survey and discovered that an astounding 33% of respondents received a flu shot at the suggested location. For urgent medical situations, texting is the easiest and fastest way to reach out to your community.

2. Send People the Right Message at the Right Time

For people trying to change their daily behaviors to live healthier the right message at the right time can make all the difference. Improving one’s health is a process that requires daily will power and commitment. To help people achieve their behavior change goals, you can send text messages relative to each individual’s goal date and provide encouragement when it’s needed most, increasing the overall success rate of your program.

The National Cancer Institute’s SmokefreeTXT campaign sends out messages of encouragement to smokers trying to quit smoking, targeted to each individual’s quit date. Teenagers who received the text messages were twice as likely to quit smoking compared to teenagers who did not receive any text message support. Text messages are a proven way to help people stay on track and reach their personal health goals.

3. Inform People with Educational Information and Tips

Many people want to live healthier lives, but it can be hard to know where to start. With text messages, you can send educational information straight to every person in need. Whether it’s eating healthier, finding a job, or becoming an American citizen, text messages are a simple way to send personalized information to people quickly and effectively.

For families reliant on food stamps, healthy eating decisions are often sacrificed in favor of cost cutting. The University of Maryland’s Food Supplement Nutrition Education program sends text messages to low-income families with tips on healthier food choices and how to maximize their use of food resources. A survey of the pilot program found that 73% of parents took the suggested actions in the text messages all or most of the time.

4. Help People Get the Right Answers

Texting allows people to ask questions and get answers from professionals without the fear of judgment or concerns over confidentiality. Since it can often be hard to find reliable information online, a text message hotline can give people immediate answers from a trusted source.

Planned Parenthood’s live chat text hotline allows teens to anonymously text in questions and concerns about their sexual health to a health educator. Teens are able to receive important sexual health information directly on their phones without drawing attention to themselves. Over the past three years, more than 250,000 teens have used the program and users report lower levels of anxiety in post chat surveys. Texting can ease concerns by helping people get the right answers to those who need them.

Start Building a Healthier Community Today!

Text messaging isn’t just a way to talk to your friends and family – it’s a tool that can help people find local resources, change their behaviors, learn how to live healthier, and get answers in real-time. To learn more about how your organization can use text messaging to build a healthier community, visit Mobile Commons for Health or contact us at today!

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