HHS mHealth initiatives target smoking cessation

By Molly Merrill
03:56 PM

 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced new recommendations and initiatives on Monday to support health text messaging and mobile health (mHealth) programs.

In November 2010, HHS established the Text4Health Task Force as part of the agency’s commitment to promoting innovation at HHS. The task force, comprised of public health experts across HHS, was charged with providing recommendations for HHS’ role in encouraging and developing health text messaging initiatives, which would deliver health information and resources to individuals via their mobile phones.

The report recommends that:

HHS develop and host evidence-based health text message libraries that leverage HHS’ rich and scientifically-based information;

HHS develop further evidence on the effectiveness of health text messaging programs, and

HHS explore and develop partnerships to create, implement and disseminate health text messaging and mHealth programs. The full HHS Text4Health Task Force recommendations are available for public comment here.

“Mobile device texting initiatives, like this one, have the potential to be a powerful tool to support tobacco cessation globally,” according to the report. “Text messaging is widely available, inexpensive and allows for immediate delivery of cessation information.”

Since January 2010, and consistent with these recommendations, HHS has invested $5 million dollars to develop its eHealth/mHealth smoking cessation resources aimed at increasing quitting attempts among teens, young adults and adults.

On Monday HHS also launched several new initiatives guided by the HHS Text4Health Task Force. For instance, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health is launching the SmokeFreeTXT program, a mobile smoking cessation service specifically designed for teens and young adults across the United States. The service is an extension of the core smoking cessation website, which consistently achieves between 70,000 – 100,000 visits on a monthly basis.

“More than 70 percent of smokers want to quit, we are committed to providing evidence based information to smokers through emerging and innovative technology,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.