Text messaging to keep kids healthy

Filed under: Teens, Health & Safety: Babies, Medical Conditions

When kids are little, the responsibility for making sure they take necessary medications falls to the parents. You may have to hold them down and force them at times, but that is totally doable. But when they get older, necessity dictates that kids with chronic illnesses begin to take more responsibility for their own health. Short of following them around with a bottle of pills/syringe/inhaler, parents are often powerless to ensure their kids are doing what they need to do in order to stay healthy.

Reasoning that chronically ill kids who don't take their meds are doing so out of forgetfulness, Dr. Maria Britto hit on what may be a very effective way of reminding them: text messages. What better way to grab the attention of a teen these days than via their ever-present cell phone? "You have to get in their face a little," says Britta, an asthma specialist at Cincinnati Children's.

Her idea has evolved into a study to see if daily text message reminders will improve the health of teens who suffer from asthma. Pilot testing has begun and a full study will get underway later in the year. Study participant Kabrina Moton confesses that in the past, she has gone a whole month without taking her asthma medication. Now, she gets a happy little reminder each evening and she says she hasn't missed a dose. "It always says, 'Have a nice day,'" she says. "It makes me feel good about it."

If Dr. Britto's idea proves successful for asthma patients, it stands to reason that it would work for other diseases as well. "We have the science," Britto says. "We just can't figure out how to get the right drugs into the right kids' bodies." Maybe now they have.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.