SMS for diabetes control goes into national trial

University of Auckland researchers are hoping to recruit 1000 people with types 1 and 2 diabetes to test whether a two-way text message-based self-management program can help manage their condition better between clinic visits and improve glycaemic control.

The Self-Management Support for Blood Glucose or SMS4BG trial is being run by a well-known group of researchers from the university's National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) who have already had success with mHealth interventions for smoking cessation.

SMS4BG was tested in a pilot study across the Waitemata DHB in late 2013, with the results showing it was appreciated by participants, supported them to manage their condition better, and improved diabetes control as measured by changes in HbA1c levels.

The team has since been awarded funding from the Health Research Council (HRC) for a randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of SMS4BG, with further funding from the Ministry of Health to test whether it also works in more rural and remote populations.

Lead researcher Robyn Whittaker said the trial is being run across a number of DHB/PHO districts including Auckland and Waitemata as well across Northland, Eastern Bay of Plenty and Gisborne.

“We are interested in involving other regions,” Dr Whittaker said. “Ideally we would love to recruit 1000 participants in total with 500 from the Auckland and Waitemata districts and 500 from more rural and remote regions across NZ.”

Eligible participants will be randomly allocated to either the intervention or to a usual care control group. Those in the intervention group will receive the SMS4BG text message program for three to nine months.

Dr Whittaker said SMS4BG is a motivational and support program designed to address the behaviours required for successful diabetes self-management.

“The program is made up of modules allowing for tailoring to the individual patient, including a core diabetes module (available in Māori, Pacific and non-Māori/Pacific versions), insulin module, young adult module, smoking cessation module, lifestyle behaviour modules (healthy eating, exercise and stress management), and preventative behaviour module,” she said.

“They can also choose to receive reminders to check their blood glucose at a [certain] frequency. If they do, they can also respond by text message with their blood glucose results and we will graph it for them so they can see the trends over time.”

The trial will also look at how general practices can easily ‘prescribe’ the program for their patients if it is proven to be successful.

Dr Whittaker and the NIHI pioneered the use of mobile phone-based interventions with the STOMP text message service for smoking cessation, which was then licensed to the now defunct HSAGlobal as the Txt2Quit app. The IP for STOMP has now returned to the ownership of Auckland UniServices.

Dr Whittaker said the NIHI is also running an HRC-funded trial of a cardiac rehabilitation program called Text4Heart that is just getting underway with Auckland and Waitemata DHBs, and TextMATCH, which is a health information and support text message program for pregnant women and families with young children up to two years of age. This is being run in association with a consortium of community and health organisations across Auckland and Waitemata districts.

Interested parties can contact the research team by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or text message 021 08533322.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

Tags: mHealth, SMS4BG

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