A study to assess the feasibility of Text Messaging Service in delivering maternal and child healthcare messages in a rural area of Tamil Nadu, India

Shib Sekhar Datta, Pandiyan Ranganathan, Krithiga Sivakumar


Mobile text messaging is a potentially powerful tool for behaviour change because it is widely available, inexpensive, and instant.

To evaluate whether mobile Text Messaging Service is a feasible mode of raising knowledge regarding maternal and child health (MCH) and to explore issues related to mobile text messages as a mode of health education.

A community-based intervention study was conducted from January to June 2013 in six randomly selected villages of Vellore district, Tamil Nadu. A multi-stage sampling technique was followed: 120 individuals from 120 households (30 clusters in 6 villages) were contacted. Data were collected using a pretested questionnaire by house-to-house visits in 3 phases: 1) baseline assessment of aptitude towards text messages; 2) intervention: sending MCH-related text messages; and 3) end-line assessment to evaluate the increase in knowledge level. Qualitative data regarding mobile text messages as a mode of health education were explored. Quantitative data were analysed using SPSS version 17.0 and qualitative data by Anthropac software. 

Of the individuals surveyed, 69.17 per cent and 52.5 per cent were “able to read” and “type and send” text messages, respectively. Seventy per cent of individuals were willing to receive health information via text messages, and 98.33 per cent believed text messages could effectively spread health messages. A significant increase in knowledge was observed following text messages. Male gender and subjects’ ability to read text messages were significantly associated. Factors related to mobile phone use include minimum economic burden, easy availability, portability, and ease of use. Factors related to mobile text messages as a mode of health message delivery include direct receipt of information, mass reach, the absence of regional language font in many handsets, and illiterate individuals being unable to read messages.

In rural areas, mobile text messages have the potential to deliver health messages regarding MCH. 

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