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UNC study: Text messaging may help children fight off obesity
Date:11/11/2008

ight children aged 5 to 13 and their parents participated in Shapiro's study, which was conducted at UNC Hospitals, and 31 families completed the study. The families took part in three group education sessions (one session weekly for three weeks) which aimed to encourage them to increase physical activity, decrease "screen time" (time spent watching television) and reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. All of the children were given pedometers to track the number of steps they took each day, as well as goals to meet for the number of steps taken, minutes of screen time and number of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed per day.

The participating families were randomized into three groups: one that reported self-monitoring via cell phone text messaging, another group that reported self-monitoring in a paper diary, and a no-monitoring control group. The text messaging and paper diary groups answered three questions each day: (1) what was the number on your pedometer today?; (2) how many sugar-sweetened beverages did you drink today?; and (3) how many minutes of screen time did you have today?

Each family in the text messaging group was given a cell phone to be used only for study-related messages. They were instructed to send two messages per day (one from the parent and one from the child) reporting their answers to the three questions. Each time a message was sent, the sender received an immediate, automated feedback message based on what the sender reported. The researchers generated hundreds of feedback messages for the study. One example was, "Wow, you met your step and screen time goals congratulations! What happened to beverages?"

The study results show that children in the text messaging group had a lower attrition rate from the study (28 percent) than both the paper diary (61 percent) and the control group (50 percent). They also had a significantly greater adherence to self-monitoring than the paper diary group, 43 percen
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Contact: Stephanie Crayton
scrayton@unch.unc.edu
919-966-2860
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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