Last fall, the CDC launched a text messaging pilot to share timely health information directly to consumers. To subscribe to the pilot, you can text HEALTH to 87000 and receive about three health messages a week (H1N1, etc). CDC isn’t charging subscribers to participate but standard text messaging rates apply.
They’ve already recruited over 16,000 subscribers and are requesting people’s age, sex and zip code, which most are providing. By launching this pilot, CDC hopes to improve many of their existing text messaging programs on topics such as HIV testing locations, MRSA skin infections, and emergency messages.
For example, users can text their zip code to “KnowIt” (566948) and, within seconds, receive a text message identifying an HIV testing site near them. Here are some of their 1600-character “emergency messages”:
Be Active Every Day: Be a positive, healthy role model 4 kids! Plan active family time & limit TV and video game time. Encourage 60 minutes of activity each day! Rply NEWYEAR QUIT to end
High Blood Pressure: Too much salt can increase blood pressure & risk of heart attack, stroke. Have high blood pressure? Reply HIGH to get recommendations for you. CDC 800-232-4636
Prepare for Winter Weather: Major storm in East this wkd! Be ready 4 power outages-stock UR home & cars w/ supplies. Dress warmly & check on children, elderly & pets. CDC 800-232-4636
Heart Attack Symptoms: Major symptoms of a heart attack include chest discomfort, pain in upper body & shortness of breath. Call 911 immediately if UR having or see a heart attack!
-Length of Message: Text messages should be short and concise. The entire message should be less than 160 characters, including spaces and punctuation. The text message should be short enough to allow for branding.
–Content of Message: All content should be written at an 8th grade reading level.
–Call-to-Action: Each message should provide a call to action in the body of the message that stands alone and does not require multiple messages.
–Follow-up: Include a way for users to follow up or respond to the message, such as a phone number and/or URL to a mobile Web site. Links to traditional Web sites should be avoided unless the site has been designed specifically for mobile devices.
–Forwarding: If possible, encourage recipients to forward or “fwd” the message to friends or others affected by the emergency situation.