A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that text messaging could be used to reduce children's chances of becoming overweight or obese later in life, by helping them monitor and modify their own behaviors now.
Traditionally, paper diaries are the tool most often used by people who are obese for self-monitoring. While a paper diary can be very effective, researchers had a hunch that the same concept might work better in children if they could report their self-monitoring via cell phone text messaging — and receive feedback messages in return. The participants were randomized into three groups: one that reported self-monitoring via cell phone text messaging, another group that reported self-monitoring in a paper diary and a no-monitoring control group.
The study found that:
• Children in the text messaging group had a lower attrition rate from the study (28 percent) than both the paper diary (61 percent) and the control group (50 percent).
• Children in the text messaging group also had a significantly greater adherence to self-monitoring than the paper diary group, 43 percent versus 19 percent.
The study concludes that cell phone text messaging may be a useful tool for self-monitoring of healthy behaviors in children, and suggests more broadly that novel technologies may play a role in improving health.
Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, November 11, 2008