Textually Active: The Power of Mobile

With Snapchat, WhatsApp, and more, texting almost feels like old news for some youth these days. In a landscape where everyone, from tweens to grandparents are texting, health professionals are just starting to scratch the surface of the many applications of mobile engagement.

mobile texting youth health

Photo by AFS USA, Creative Commons on Flickr.

One of the most exciting developments in the texting world is the growth of the Crisis Text Line. As Nancy Lubin explained in her YTH Live talk “Texting that can Save Lives,” the CTL works just like any other hotline, where teens can speak anonymously with trained counselors. But instead of calling in, they text 741-741. The telegraph-like format of texting often drives people to the crux of their problem much more quickly than talking on the phone, allowing them to get the help they need immediately. Teens can also text the CTL in a crowded room or public space and be ensured perfect privacy.

Lubin is also a founding member of DoSomething.org, which frequently uses texting in their teen-directed health and safety campaigns. One of their recent projects was Pregnancy Text, which turned people’s phones into babies for a day, sending noisy alerts whenever the “baby” was tired, hungry, or otherwise dissatisfied. Pregnancy Text has since ended, but you can read about it here, and watch a video of it being used here.

Unete Latina is a texting service offered by YTH. By texting “Unete” to 61827, Latina women in the vicinity of Fresno, CA can receive text messages in Spanish every few days with legal tips, health advice, and references to health clinics and other services that serve community members without regard for their documentation status. Read more about it in this article from Colorlines.

YTH also has a texting program called Oregon Reminders. Oregon Reminders enables users, primarily men who have sex with men, to sign up for lifestyle tips on staying healthy either with or without HIV, and also permits users to receive HIV medication and refill reminders via text message.

Oregon Reminders medicaiton text messages

The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition has recently gotten into the texting game as well, with Text4Baby. Subscribers receive health information and parenting tips throughout their pregnancy and their baby’s first year, scheduled according to how far along they are. They can also sign up to get reminders of medical appointments—which many hospitals and healthcare providers are sending out as well.

There are many more texting services than these, like Habit Changer and HealthTxts—and yours, if you should start one! With an open rate of 100%, texting is one of the easiest, simplest ways to distribute information to large groups of people, particularly those social groups which do not frequent websites like Twitter or apps like Snapchat. Even some grandparents, after all, text.

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