Federal Government to Study Efficacy of Text4Baby

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be conducting a study to evaluate the efficiency of the service Text4Baby.

According to a report in the Federal Register last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be conducting a study to evaluate the efficiency of the service Text4Baby using electronic health records (EHR) data.

The HHS reported that “the goal of this program evaluation is to examine the characteristics of women who utilize the Text4Baby mobile phone-based program, to assess their experience with the program, and to determine whether enrollment in Text4Baby is associated with healthy behaviors and timely access to health care during pregnancy and an infant’s first year of life.”

Text4Baby is a free text-messaging program which provides health information for new and expectant mothers. It was created in February 2010, and currently has over 190,000 subscribers.

The program’s website explains why the SMS service exists. “The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) launched Text4Baby, the first free health text messaging service in the US….[to support] moms by providing accurate, text-length health information and resources in a format that is personal and timely, using a channel she knows and uses.”

“Once registered,” the site continues, “you will start receiving free messages with tips for your pregnancy or caring for your baby. These messages are timed to your due date or your baby’s birth date….Once you have your baby, be sure to text in UPDATE with your baby’s birthday so you keep getting messages through baby’s first year.”

The service is powered by Voxiva, which has also recently launched a similar program called Text2Quit for smokers. The purpose of this program is to provide support and information to smokers who wish to kick the habit.

Based on a previous study, texting supportive messages to smokers may be positively correlated to an increase in the number of smokers quitting, which may lead to intriguing findings as a result of this impending study on Text4Baby’s effectiveness.

The researchers reported that they will utilize health centers in four communities to recruit Text4Baby subscribers and non-subscribers. These participants will partake in a telephone survey during the course of their pregnancy as well as “approximately nine months later,” or sometime following the birth of their child.

The facilitators also plan to incorporate focus groups, stakeholder interviews, and key informant interviews into the research.

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Timothy Wilt, MD, MPH | Credit: ACP
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