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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Why text for Public Health?

Text messaging is powerful because:

Texting bullet Texting is pervasive.
In 2011, 73% of adults with cell phones reported using texting, up from 65% in 2009. Unlike the digital divide among users of online technologies, texting has been more quickly adopted by people across a wide range of language, ethnic, and income groups. Some ethnic minorities have even higher rates of texting use, with 76% of African American and 83% of Hispanic adult cell phone owners reporting that they used texting compared to 70% of whites (Smith, 2011).

Texting bullet Texting is mobile.
People are attached to their cell phones and carry them around with them. They even sleep with them; a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that two-thirds of adults reported keeping their cell phone on or near them when sleeping (Lenhart, 2010).

Texting bullet Texting is reliable.
Text messages are more likely to get through than a phone call, especially in emergencies. Phone calls require a direct one-to-one line of connection, but text messages move through the network using multiple pathways to get to their end destination (Coyle, 2005).

Texting 101: Chapter 1
Why Health Departments should consider mobile technology to reach the public during an emergency.
New to SMS text messaging?
Learn how to text by watching this video

Research publication
  • Karasz, H., & Bogan, S. (2011). What 2 know b4 u text: Short Message Service options for local health departments. Washington State Journal of Public Health Practice 4(1), 20.
    Text messaging (SMS) is a mobile technology now used by hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians. The technology is also being used around the country and world to deliver timely, customized, and relevant health information to end-users right to their cell phones. Text messaging holds tremendous potential to protect and promote the health of many Washingtonians and do it efficiently and at a low cost. But there is much for local health departments to learn before they can employ this technology to best effect. Research by communications practitioners at Public Health — Seattle & King County is examining how text messaging may be used by local health departments to engage audiences, as well as legal, fiscal, and logistical issues that should be considered before program implementation.