Center for Disabilities Studies (DE) Leads Delaware to First Place in National text4baby Contest

November 30, 2011

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In keeping with its reputation as the First State, Delaware took first place in a state enrollment contest for text4baby, a free text-messaging service from the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition that provides prenatal advice and healthy lifestyle tips to expectant mothers and fathers.

The Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS) at the University of Delaware is the lead organization for text4baby in Delaware.State and local text4baby partners nationwide are working together to enroll one million mothers in text4baby by December 2012.

The recently ended text4baby state enrollment contest supported this work by encouraging healthy competition among states. From May 10 through Oct. 20, states competed to enroll as many users as possible in text4baby.

During the contest period 481 new users enrolled in text4baby in Delaware. This number represents a 97 percent increase over those who enrolled earlier, resulting in a total of 979 text4baby users at the end of October.

Delaware placed first, with its enrollment of an estimated 4.5 percent -- or 45 per 1,000 -- of eligible moms, based on live births data and an estimate of the number of pregnant women and new moms in each state who could have enrolled in text4baby during the contest period.

CDS implemented a variety of tactics to increase enrollment in the program. The center disseminated materials to other agencies throughout the state and sent text4baby materials to every Delaware obstetrician. CDS also sponsored a contest that entered new uses who signed up for text4baby through one of its state partners, Westside Family Healthcare, into a raffle for a Babies 'R' Us gift card.

Karen Zalewski and Annalisa Ekbladh, the CDS staff members who are project coordinators for the text4baby initiative, accepted the first place award at a reception in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 1. Earlier in the day, they met with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and his health policy adviser to discuss strategies to further promote text4baby in Delaware. Carper later released a press release congratulating CDS and other Delaware partners on their first place win in the contest.

Efforts during the contest from other Delaware partners targeted a wide range of media and social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Other organizations that partnered with CDS to promote text4baby are Head Start, the Delaware Division of Public Health, Christiana Care Health System and Delaware's Birth to Three program. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware recently awarded a $10,000 grant to CDS to promote text4baby.

In an article published in the Delaware State News Nov. 9, Dr. Tom Stephens, chief medical officer for Westside Family Healthcare, called text4baby "a phenomenally done program."

"It's accurate and it's informative. There are not too many things I am as positive about as this program," Stephens said in the article.

CDS first became involved in text4baby in September 2010 when it identified the program as a tool for its early development screening campaign, which was funded by the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council, whose funding originates from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities.

CDS saw text messaging as key to the success of the early screening project, which focused on increasing awareness of child development milestones for at-risk mothers and mothers on Medicaid.

Text messaging study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted a study of text messaging usage, specifically focusing on use among minority populations.

The study found that 89 percent of U.S. adults use text messaging, compared to 77 percent using the Internet. The study also found that 84 percent of Latinos and 71 percent of African-Americans use cell phones. Internet usage among these populations had also increased, but not at the rate of cell phone usage. Lastly, the study found that adults under 30 and Hispanics are more likely than other Americans to live in a mobile-only household.

The findings of the first research project to evaluate the text4baby service demonstrate the positive impact of mobile health interventions.

The research was carried out at the National Latino Research Center at California State University San Marcos and the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of California at San Diego.

The experiences of San Diego women enrolled in text4baby indicate high satisfaction with the service and an increase in users' health knowledge, improved interaction with health care providers, improved adherence to appointments and immunizations, and increased access to health resources.

Dr. Stuart Cohen, vice chair for the California District, American Academy of Pediatrics, and president of the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation Board, said in a prepared statement that the results show that text4baby can improve health outcomes for infants.

"Not only are women getting information they did not know, but the information is starting conversations between the parent and healthcare provider," Cohen said in the statement. "A better informed parent provides the best chance for a healthy baby."

For more information about text4baby, contact Karen Zalewski at 302-831-6839.