Text4baby promising for expecting moms in the military

Texting is proving to have a beneficial impact on expectant mothers in the military, as it helps them avoid missed appointments, reminds them of healthy nutrition habits and provides insight and guidance for dealing with childcare questions and concerns.

A recent study on Text4baby, a theory-based mHealth program, found the mobile tool also improves health attitudes and beliefs and researchers hope to continue investigating its effects on behavior. 

The study involved 943 patients who were, on average, 28 years old; 70 percent were self-identified as Caucasian. The study trial was held at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, from December 2011 through September 2013.

The research revealed the Text4baby intervention helped expectant moms in the military adhere to prenatal vitamin regimens and helped participants better understand the value of visiting a healthcare provider, as well as the risks of alcohol during pregnancy.

"Female service members struggle to balance family and service and are much more likely to be a single parent than male troops," the study's authors--from George Washington University, the Madigan Army Medical Center and the University of Washington--said. "It is estimated that about 10 percent of female military personnel become pregnant each year, and approximately 75,000 military children are estimated to be younger than 1 year of age. Thus, there is a large Military Health Service (MHS) population that could benefit from the Text4baby program, as it is a free resource that can help support military families and address a growing demand for maternal and child health and healthcare services."

Mobile messaging as part of medical recovery treatment has been proven to boost rehabilitation efforts for injured military personnel and help soldiers re-integrate following service. What's more, a new program developed by University of British Columbia researchers aims to provide pregnant women living in rural locations with needed prenatal care through text messaging. The effort--dubbed SmartMom Canada--will inform women about options and resources in their community, and encourage discussion of issues and options in pregnancy with care providers.

"The implications of this study for Text4baby are further confirmation of the program's conceptual model," the study's authors said. "Thus this evaluation is one step toward validating a new theoretical approach to mHealth programs. Previous communication research suggests that targeted health communications delivered using validating messaging strategies may, by themselves, have small but statistically significant effects on subsequent health cognitions and behavior."

For more information:
- read the study