Study: text4baby effectively helps new moms with behavior change

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In the first randomized evaluation of the text4baby mHealth program, a pilot study has found it to be a "promising program" in which "exposure to the text messages was associated with changes in specific beliefs targeted by the messages," according to an article in BMC Public Health. Text4baby is a free mobile information service for pregnant women and new moms designed to promote maternal and child health by sending text messages each week on pregnancy and baby care.

In the pilot evaluation study, all participants were pregnant women first presenting for care at the Fairfax County, Virginia Health Department. Randomized participants were enrolled in text4baby and received usual healthcare (intervention), or continued simply to receive usual care (control). A 24-item survey by telephone of attitudes and behaviors related to text4baby then was conducted in which participants were surveyed at baseline before text4baby was delivered to the intervention group and at follow-up at approximately 28 weeks of a baby's gestational age.

One hundred twenty-three baseline interviews were conducted in English and in Spanish, with roughly 80 percent of interviewees being of Hispanic origin and with an average age of 27.6 years. Ninety follow-up interviews were conducted, achieving a 73 percent retention rate. The study found a significant effect of text4baby intervention exposure on increased agreement with the attitude statement "I am prepared to be a new mother" between baseline and follow-up.

For those who had a high school education or greater, the study observed a significantly higher overall agreement to attitudes against alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and also observed a significant improvement of attitudes toward alcohol consumption from baseline to follow-up.

Launched in February 2010 by founding partners Johnson & Johnson and CTIA, text4baby is available in all 50 states and in Washington, DC, with more than 300,000 people who have signed-up to receive health updates. The text messages are timed to a woman's due date or the baby's date of birth. The purpose of the pilot evaluation study was to assess the efficacy of this text messaging campaign.

There is evidence that alcohol consumption in pregnancy can cause fetal harm. Each year in the U.S., more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely and an estimated 28,000 children die before their first birthday.

In an effort to help people with type 2 diabetes take better control of their health, Voxiva, the mHealth company behind text4baby, recently announced the launch of care4life, a mobile app and personalized online web portal that provides participants with daily education, encouragement and support via text messages.

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