HHS looks for help in disseminating TXT4Tots library of messages

Some say kids are addicted to technology, and soon they may be receiving even more digital messages--urging them to have healthier lifestyles.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Service's Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is requesting information from the public on how to best disseminate and apply TXT4Tots, a library of messages for parents and caregivers of children ages 1 to 5, according to a Jan. 29 announcement in the Federal Register. HRSA's goal is to "ensure that the TXT4Tots library of messages remains publicly available at no cost for noncommercial purposes," the RFI states.

Available in both English and Spanish, the TXT4Tots messages focus on nutrition, healthy eating and physical activity. In 2010, HRSA provided funding to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to develop the library of age-appropriate messages for parents and caregivers based on AAP's Bright Futures Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children and Adolescents. Now, HRSA is looking for information and ideas on how to effectively incorporate the library of messages into existing public and private programs and products.

"We recognize there are multiple ways this can occur and, therefore, are seeking input on how the TXT4Tots message library could be maximized to advance understanding about toddler and preschool nutrition and physical activity, and the interests of potential partners in working with HHS to do so," the RFI states. "The intent is to build upon current programs, policies, and infrastructure to enhance education, dissemination of the TXT4Tots messages, and leverage existing programs in innovative ways, particularly to support outreach to underserved communities where access to health education may be limited."

Written and electronic responses are due to HRSA by Feb. 19. In addition to soliciting ideas and information, the RFI has invited participants to a Feb. 20 forum at HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C. to hear proposed comments from the public. Participation will also be available by telephone and webex for those who are unable to attend in person.

The RFI is quick to point out that the name TXT4Tots merely "describes the library of developed messages and does not necessarily imply the need for dissemination through mobile, SMS messaging."

A pilot study published in late November 2012 found texting to be a "promising program" for new mothers in which "exposure to the text messages was associated with changes in specific beliefs targeted by the messages." Launched in February 2010 by founding partners Johnson & Johnson and CTIA, the Text4baby program is available in all 50 states and in Washington, DC, with more than 300,000 people who have signed-up to receive health updates.

To learn more:
- read the RFI from HRSA