Text2BHealthy is a text message program targeting parents of elementary school students who are currently receiving classroom-based nutrition education. Face-to-face nutrition education is an effective tool in teaching children about fruits and vegetables, but programs often experience difficulty reaching parents. Text2BHealthy provides parents with “nutrition nudges” 2-3 times per week on nutrition-related school and community activities, grocery store specials, and physical activity ideas. Messages are targeted and focus on encouraging families to take action. The program includes an email alternative to text messages and Spanish messages in select schools.
Sample text messages:
- Some WGES students made fajitas during garden lessons this week. Look for the Harvest Fajitas recipe in your child's backpack - a tasty way to get more veggies!
- Zucchini & squash are on sale @ Giant. Chop into small pieces & cook in a frying pan with cooking spray. Add your favorite spice & serve!
Text2BHealthy began in January 2012 with 6 schools and 203 parents participating across Maryland. Pilot program focus group and survey data show that the vast majority of eligible parents had cell phones and unlimited texting plans. Among participants, 94% of parents read all text messages, 98% always or sometimes do something suggested in one of the texts and 84% of parents intended to enroll again the following year. During the 5-month pilot, 91% of participants were retained.
Text2BHealthy expanded by 2016 to 15 schools. A total of over 2,000 parents have enrolled in the program with 239 receiving e-mail messages. The retention rate for the program is 89% through the first year.
Parents who participate in Text2BHealthy are surveyed before and after the program about grocery shopping habits; familial eating and physical activity behaviors; and home nutrition environment characteristics.
Real-time evaluation is also done through texted questions, which assess parents’ responses to previous educational messages. The data collection is used to provide information on program relevance and applicability as well as to explore whether text messaging, alone and in combination with in-school SNAP-Ed youth programming, is associated with improved health outcomes among participating families. The results have informed message content and delivery and have also encouraged program expansion and replication by other agencies.
The evaluation of Text2BHealthy is part of a comprehensive parent-wide evaluation plan that capitalizes on indicators offered by the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework. Specifically, it assesses both individual behavior changes (indicators MT1 and MT3) and organizational adoption of healthy supports (indicators MT5 and MT6).