Low text message response rate for infant feeding program

Text messaging used as a data collection tool to monitor an infant feeding intervention program in rural China was low-cost, but yielded a low response rate, according to a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Participants in the feasibility study were caregivers of children up to 23 months of age who participated in an infant feeding health education program. Researchers collected data with a text messaging survey and a face-to-face survey of 258 participants total. Seven core questions were divided into three categories: participants' feedback on the infant feeding calendar, participants' feeding knowledge and the main source of their feeding knowledge. 

The text messaging survey consisted of 11 messages. The face-to-face survey had 27 questions in total: 10 questions about general information of children and participants, the seven core questions, seven questions about reasons for disagreement between the same questions, one question about reasons for nonresponse or incomplete replies, and two questions about participants' perceptions of the two survey methods.

"Compared with the face-to-face survey, the text messaging survey had much lower response rates to at least one question and to all seven questions with moderate data agreement," reports the article. However, the costs per questionnaire for the text messaging method were much lower than the costs for the face-to-face method.

The authors found that participants in the study were more likely to reply to text messages immediately during two time periods: 8 am to 3 pm and 8 pm to 9 pm. 

"Further research is needed to evaluate effectiveness of measures that can increase the response rate, especially in collecting longitudinal data by text messaging," study authors concluded.

In May, a year-long evaluation of text4baby, a free mobile information service designed to promote maternal and child health through text messaging, found the program to be effective. The findings are based on a survey developed by researchers from the National Latino Research Center at California State University San Marcos and the University of California San Diego, with support from the Alliance Healthcare Foundation, which was administered to 631 unique text4baby users in San Diego. 

The survey results "indicate that text4baby is increasing users' health knowledge, facilitating interaction with health providers, reminding them of their appointments and immunizations, and improving access to health services." This research study supports findings from the first randomized evaluation of the U.S.-based text4baby mHealth program. The 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."

To learn more:
- read the study in JMIR

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