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How Texting Can Help Lower Diabetes Risk

Update Date: Dec 19, 2013 03:28 PM EST
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Texting can help protect people from developing diabetes. Researchers have created a simple phone education program that can help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers said that most of the participants who enrolled in customized texting service txt4health said the free mobile education program helped them pay attention to their diabetes risk and make changes in their diet and behavior.

The program worked well for those who completed it, but only 39 percent stuck through all 14 weeks.

"We found that this method of health intervention had potential to significantly influence people's health habits and have great reach - however, sustained participant engagement across the 14 weeks was lower than desired," lead author of both studies Lorraine R. Buis, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the U-M Medical School, said in a news release.

"It's clear that a text message program may not be appropriate for everyone; however, for a large subset of people, this may be a feasible, acceptable, and useful strategy to motivate positive behavior changes," she added.

Participants reported that the program helped them cut down on sugary drinks, replace fresh fruit with dessert, substitute a small salad for chips or fries when eating out, buy healthier foods and replace fried foods with grilled, baked or broiled foods.

Most of the participants said that the educational program made them knowledgeable of their risk for developing type 2 diabetes and more aware f their dietary and physical activity habits.

"Text message programs may be a useful tool when used as a component in a broad-based public health campaign," Buis said. "However, sole reliance on this strategy may be cautioned when targeting a general population because the level of individual engagement widely varies.

"We need to further explore ways to improve retention rates among participants," she concluded.

The findings are published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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