Feasibility of text messaging to promote child health in a rural community on an American Indian reservation

Blakely Brown, Kari Harris, Laura Dybdal, Julia Malich, Brenda Bodnar, Emily Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: This study investigated the feasibility of delivering health-related short text messages to parents with the goal of reducing obesity risk among their children aged 3–5 years. Design: Quasi-experimental design involving one experimental group of 17 parents. Setting: Rural American Indian reservation. Methods: During the 5-week intervention period, parents received 3 topic-related text messages each week for a total of 15 messages. The topics focused on included nutrition, physical activity (PA), sleep, consumption of sugary beverages, TV viewing and screen time. Outcomes included assessments of feasibility including retention rates; delivery, receipt and response to text messages; and programme satisfaction. Pre- to posttest changes in parent knowledge of health behaviours associated with childhood obesity and parent report of these health behaviours in their child were also assessed. Results: A total of 100% (17/17) of the participants completed the study and final assessments. All texts (n = 289) sent to participants were successfully delivered. Of the 85 texts that requested a response, parents responded to 91% (78/85) by answering the question. All participants reported they found the texts easy to understand. A total of 94% (16/17) of participants reported enjoying the frequency with which they received messages. At the end of the study, parents reported improved overall child health behaviours that approached statistical significance (p =.051) and parents reported significantly improved behaviours related to PA and sleep (p =.046). No significant differences were found for changes in parent knowledge. Conclusion: Findings suggest it is feasible to deliver a text messaging-based childhood obesity prevention intervention to parents of young children living on a rural American Indian reservation. Text messages were appreciated by parents and may influence child health behaviours associated with childhood obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-569
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Education Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Childhood obesity
  • Native American
  • mHealth
  • parents
  • rural
  • text messaging


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