With Public Health budgets under severe pressure, could digital health be the key to unlocking prevention and behaviour change in large numbers?
Engaging with a mobile 1st population
In 2015, Ofcom reported that 93% of the UK population owns a mobile phone. SMS text messaging is now the most ubiquitous form of mobile communication. The proportion of UK adults who said they sent or received text messages at least once a week in 2014 was 90%, an uplift from 70% in 2005.
It follows that if you want to engage with a broad section of the population, mHealth – using text messages to promote health interventions – is an effective way to connect with the public.
The advantages of mHealth digital health interventions
In a White Paper, ‘It started with a Text’, Professors of Psychology from the University of Hertfordshire, Karen J Pine and Professor Ben (C) Fletcher, identify nine advantages that mHealth text delivery can bring to digital health interventions.
From extending treatment between professional consultations, to reaching hard-to-reach communities and overcoming health illiteracy, meta-analysis of the effectiveness of messaging interventions (text and email) based on 55 research articles, finds significant behavioural outcomes in 76% of the studies.
Broom et al (2015) reported that supportive text messages were an effective way of supporting low-income mothers of racial and ethnic minority backgrounds with postpartum depression and an effective way of making contact with a group that had an extreme need at relatively low-cost.
Nundy et al (2013) found a message-based programme for diabetes reduced denial of diabetes and reinforced the importance of self-management. Participants perceived the automated programme as a “friend” and “support group” that monitored and supported their self-management behaviours.
Reaching a wider audience with restricted budgets
One of the big advantages of digital health is that it enables health practitioners to broaden their engagement beyond the traditional touchpoints. This is particularly important for any prevention measures.
If someone has symptoms of illness, they may contact their GP, A&E or specialist health practitioner. But if the agenda is to help prevent health issues – for example, smoking cessation for cancer prevention or tackling obesity before it leads to Type 2 diabetes – most of these organisations struggle to find cost-effective routes to identify and reach their audience.
The beauty of a digital product is that it can be promoted in a digital space. Public Health, Local Authorities, CCG or NHS organisations with an mHealth solution can use Facebook, Twitter and Google to reach at-risk populations. It’s fast, adaptive and cost-effective and can be managed and planned to a budget.
Fitting around and complementing existing services, mHealth is proving to be an effective way to tackle prevention and behaviour change, delivered direct to the pocket of each citizen as they go about their daily life.
Join our FREE webinar to learn more about the possibilities:
This 30-minute lunchtime webinar, ‘Changing Health Behaviours in a Digital Age‘ is presented by Professor Karen Pine, expert in the field of changing health and wellbeing behaviours through the use of mobile technologies. Join us to find out how integrated mHealth solutions can help you to deliver on the NHS/PHE Prevention and Self-Management focus.
Wednesday March 9th, 2016