HRSA commissioned study finds Text4baby program engages subscribers

By Aditi Pai
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Text4babyPhoneA recent study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and Public Health Institute found that Text4baby subscribers are engaged with the texting program, would recommend it to others, and have gained knowledge about critical maternal and child health topics after using it.

The report was produced for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

HRSA first announced that they were planning to evaluate the efficacy of the Text4baby program in late 2010. At the time, HHS also created a special Text4Health taskforce to determine how to best apply lessons learned from Text4baby to smoking cessation, obesity and childhood health issues.

Text4baby is a texting program created by Voxiva for new and expected mothers. It has reached more than 860,000 new mothers since its 2010 launch. Women who enroll in the service receive three free text messages each week. The texts are sent from early in the pregnancy and up through the baby’s first birthday. Topics addressed in texts include labor signs and symptoms, prenatal care, urgent alerts, developmental milestones, immunizations, nutrition, birth defect prevention, safe sleep, and safety. 

Mathematic Policy Research and Public Health Institute evaluated the texting program from a period starting in 2010 until late 2013. The organization interviewed national-level stakeholders and analyzed secondary data from info collected at four community health centers (CHCs) via patient surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

The report found that Text4baby users had a higher level of knowledge in comparison to other groups on four topics: safe sleep, infant feeding, best time to deliver in a healthy pregnancy, and the meaning of full-term. Some 81 percent of women who signed up for Text4baby responded correctly to at least three of the four knowledge items, versus 60 to 62 percent of other CHC prenatal care patients. The report also found that 99 percent of Text4baby subscribers surveyed said they would recommend it to a friend or family member.

Stakeholders told researchers conducting the report that they found Text4baby's public-private partnership, which has grown to more than 1,200 organizations, “facilitated a faster implementation timeline". And  federal government partners "considered the public-private partnership model ‘unique,’ ‘a model for how we should increasingly be doing our work,’ and ‘absolutely critical to the success of the program.’”

In May 2014, a randomized control trial of Text4baby in military families returned mixed results — women who engaged in the intervention were more aware and knowledgable about healthy pregnancy strategies, but, at least during the four-week study period, this was not reflected by any significant change in behavior. Study author Douglas Evans said at the time that a follow-up study to be published later that year would likely show that the behavior change came in later months.

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