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Text Messaging Can Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Only 2-4 healthy messages per week can have a positive impact….

Researchers in India studied whether sending text messages containing health recommendations to men diagnosed with pre-diabetes could prevent a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. By randomizing 537 patients into either the text message group or the control group and then matching them in a 1:1 fashion, the researchers measured whether the text messages had any impact.

The text message group received 2-4 text messages per week from August 2009 to November 2012. Some of the text messages sent included: "Use stairs instead of a lift;" "Make your plate colorful by adding lots of vegetables;" and "Skipping breakfast will make you overeat at lunch." At the end of the study it was found that less men in the text message intervention group developed diabetes as compared to the men in the control group who received only the standard of care. About 27% of the control group developed type 2 diabetes as opposed to only 18% of the group who received the healthy text messages (hazard ratio 0·64, 95% CI 0·45–0·92;p=0·015).

The authors concluded that frequent text messages containing healthy advice and supportive phrases may help prevent pre-diabetic men from developing type 2 diabetes. Since this is a very inexpensive intervention which could easily be repeated and computerized, this may be a great option to help people live a healthier lifestyle and avoid a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Practice Pearls:

  • Sending 2-4 text messages weekly containing healthy tips and supportive phrases may help prevent pre-diabetic men from developing type 2 diabetes.
  • 18% of the group receiving text messages developed type 2 diabetes, while 27% of the control group developed type 2 diabetes.
  • The number of texts needed to prevent 1 person from being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was 11.

The Lancet, September 2013