Text messaging may be the best approach to encourage people -- especially in low-income communities -- to get flu vaccines.
A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says a pilot program that asked parents in low-income communities to get their children vaccinated was successful in increasing the percentage of people who received shots.
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Parents of 9,213 children and adolescents received five text messages per week during the 2010-2011 cold and flu season. The messages provided parents with a link to a flu shot registration website, educational material and information about Saturday clinics.
Of that initial group, 7,574 had not received the influenza vaccine prior to the intervention start date. All children had been under the care of a physician. As of March 31, 2011, 43.6% of children and adolescents in the intervention group whose parents were texted received shots, compared to 39.9% of children whose parents did not receive texts.
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Jed Alpert, CEO and founder of Mobile Commons, told Mashable that mobile has a 100% read rate and tends to have an extremely high response rate, too.
"The great thing about mobile is when you send messages, they're designed to have an outcome," he said. "When someone gets a text message there's an implication that action should be taken -- you typically wouldn't send general information through text."
The study states 91% of Americans carry a cell phone and nearly all cell phones support texting. Organizations that create text messaging programs can provide newfound access to information and services for citizens of every socioeconomic status –- and at a significantly lower cost. For reaching under-served and low-income populations, text messaging is an effective medium of communication.
"Mobile reaches pretty much everyone," Alpert said. "Once you've established this line of communication, it can be an excellent way to continue to communicate with people who in many case are difficult to reach." Text messaging is also a great way for people to stay in-touch with health updates wherever they live, he added.
Do you subscribe to any text alert programs related to healthcare? Tell us in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.