Texting is an effective way to educate young people about sexual health

Mobile phones, in particular text messaging, offer health promoters an exciting opportunity to engage personally with a huge number of individuals for low cost. Young people in an Australian study viewed text messages as an acceptable and “personal” means of sexual health promotion, particularly valuing the informal language.

Study participants preferred messages that were positive, relevant, short and that covered a variety of topics. They were more likely to remember and share messages that were funny, rhymed and/or tied into particular annual events. The message broadcasting, generally every two weeks on Friday afternoons, was viewed as appropriate. Participants said the messages provided new information, a reminder of existing information and reduced apprehension about testing for sexually transmitted infections.

“As text messages continue to be used not only for health promotion, but also for other health-related functions such as disease self-management, appointment reminders, results of diagnostic testing and partner notification, it is critical to understand the factors that influence such intervention’s success,” the study said. “Beyond SMS [texting], understanding these factors is also relevant to other areas that could be exploited for health promotion purposes, such as updates on social networking sites, where concise formats are also required.”

1. Gold J, Lim MSC, Hellard ME, et al. What’s in a message? Delivering sexual health promotion to young people in Australia via text messaging. BMC Public Health 2010; 10: 792. (open access)