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Texting teens with type 1 diabetes could help them manage their health better

Texting and financial awards are “promising methods” to engage with teenagers who are struggling to manage their type 1 diabetes, researchers have said.

As the use of smart phones continue to surge because of their multi-function use, teams from the School of Nursing, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wanted to see how they could be used to help diabetes self-care.

Data has discovered that 88% of teenagers own a mobile phone and more than 50% engage with their friends on a daily basis using text messages.

Reaching adolescence can be challenging for most, but when multiple doses of daily insulin administration, blood glucose monitoring and dietary and exercise requirements are thrown into mix, managing diabetes can become even more stressful for teenagers.

The six-month trial involved 166 teenagers aged between 12 and 18 who all had type 1 diabetes. Some of them were asked to use a text message education and support application.

Those who used the platform received a text every day and were asked to reply. Responding consecutively meant each participant became eligible for a financial reward biweekly via a lottery.

About 59% of those teenagers who were asked to text back did do as requested, although the response rate did drop over time.

The researchers discovered that offering a text message intervention combining with a financial offering improved their self-care reporting, however glycaemic control did not differ from controls.

The team say further research is needed to help develop digital health interventions that will impact glycaemic control.

Professor Terri Lipman, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, said: “We have demonstrated that text messaging is a promising method by which to engage adolescents with type 1 diabetes who have suboptimal control, in their self-care and deserves further investigation. There remains a need to develop a digital health intervention that significantly impacts glycaemic control in this population.”

The findings have been published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

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