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Can Text Messaging Keep Teen Girls Healthy?

March 12, 2014
by John DeGaspari
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Phone-based apps may be an effective violence-prevention tool, according to study

Can text-message programs be an effective violence-prevention tool for at-risk teenage girls? Megan Ranney, M.D., emergency medicine attending physician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the pediatric division of Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, thinks so. She recently led a study that found that a text-messaging program may be an effective way to prevent violence against this patient population. The study has been published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Ranney says that mobile health is increasingly being used as a tool to improve patient health, via text messaging or phone-based applications. On the other hand, she notes that few people have studied whether teens are interested in mHealth, especially for preventative-type messages. This is despite the fact that the majority of teens who come into the ED use mobile phones, and 95 percent of them use text messaging.

Ranney’s team interviewed girls between the ages of 13 and 17 who reported peer violence during the past year, and depressive symptoms during ED visits for any medical issue. Those interviews indicated that at-risk teen girly coming to the ED are interested in receiving a test-message violence prevention intervention, and many would refer their friends to it as well.

The research team also provided guidelines about how a text-message preventive intervention should be structured: it should be personalized, positively worded, and conversational, but also should be clerar that the information is coming from an expert. The teens also expressed a need for the anbility to request additional messages in addition to scheduled text content.


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