Washington | Smokers who receive a text messaging intervention are more likely to abstain from smoking, a new study has found. Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable global health problems, and text messaging has the promise to reach a wider audience with minimal costs and fewer resources, said Lori Scott-Sheldon, a senior research scientist in The Miriam Hospital’s Centres for Behavioural and Preventive Medicine.
Text messaging or SMS interventions provide health education, reminders and support using short written messages. SMS interventions can be adapted to fit an individual’s health needs in their natural environment.
The messages of support can be as simple as You can do it! or Be strong. Using meta-analysis – a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies – the researchers conducted the most extensive systematic review of the literature to date. This included 20 manuscripts with 22 text messaging interventions for smoking cessation from 10 countries.
The evidence provides unequivocal support for the efficacy of text messaging interventions to reduce smoking behaviour, but more research is needed to understand for whom they work, under what conditions, and why, said Scott-Sheldon, who is also an associate professor at Brown University.
Text messaging enjoys near-market saturation and is a widely preferred method of communication with deep penetration across diverse groups, said Beth Bock, a senior research scientist in The Miriam Hospital’s Centres for Behavioural and Preventive Medicine.
Wide availability of an attractive and effective smoking cessation programme can exert a powerful, sustained impact on public health, said Bock, also a professor at Brown University.
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