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Can Text Messaging Help Protect Your Kids from the Flu?

Are your kids getting their flu vaccines this year? Text messaging may be offering a simple new way to make sure the answer to that question is "yes."

For children between the ages of six months and eight years, the flu vaccine must be administered in two doses delivered at least 28 days apart; the first vaccine primes the child's young immune system, and the second strives to offer immunity to the year's upcoming flu virus. Should a child miss one of these doses, they will not have full immunity to the illness.

Though a child's health is paramount to a parent, requiring two visits a month apart to a health care provider can present complications. Scheduling difficulties may arise if parents have work schedules that conflict with a doctor's hours, particularly if the child's parents cannot take time off work. At the least, two separate appointments may mark a scheduling inconvenience. Additionally, two separate doses can simply represent two separate appointments that may be forgotten about or cancelled.

To ensure parents are diligent about bringing children to appointments, it seems important that parents understand why the second dose of the vaccine is necessary. After all, many parents may be inclined to view a second vaccine superfluous when the adults are only getting one shot to ward off the flu. But are conventional modes of educating parents about medicine the best way to reach them? Researchers from Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center conducted a study, published in Pediatrics in 2014, to put this question to the test.

The researchers focused on developing educational text messages, and divided participants in their study into three groups: one that received conventional written reminders of appointments for the vaccine, one that received reminders in the form of text messages, and one that received educational texts that detailed the importance of receiving both doses between the ages of six months and eight years.

The results speak clearly: of the group that received the educational texts, a large proportion of 72.7% of the children whose families received the texts received their second vaccine. This figure contrasts with the 66.7% of children whose families received simple reminder texts who received a second dose, and the 57.1% of the children whose families who received written reminders who got their second dose. While baseline compliance is decent, with the majority of children in control groups receiving a second vaccine, it is clear that the educational texts are beneficial, increasing compliance with the two-vaccine series.

A survey of participants affirms the efficacy of the educational texts: almost 61% of the parents in the educational text message group said the texts were either part of why they brought their children in for a second vaccine, or the primary reason they did so. Additionally, more than 70% of participants in the experimental group said the texts motivated them to come in sooner for a second dose. Overall, the families viewed the messages as helpful and an indicator that someone cared about their child's wellbeing.

With text messaging rising as a top mode of communication, the use of texting to advance health and educate people becomes an increasingly promising avenue for health care providers, and, with developments like these educational texts, the children they serve.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net

 


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