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National Cancer Institute taps SMS to urge teens to quit smoking

The National Cancer Institute is enlisting SMS for a far-reaching program targeting teens and young adults with messages designed to help them quit smoking.

The SmokefreeTXT SMS program delivers messages containing targeted advice and encouragement designed to help young people quit smoking. Teens and young adults can enter the program by texting QUIT to 47848 or through the SmokefreeTXT Web site.

?Mobile messaging makes sense for the National Cancer Institute or any entity in the healthcare industry seeking to engage people around a health issue,? said Jed Alpert, CEO of Mobile Commons, New York.

?This is for the simple reason that mobile messaging - in this case, text messaging - has nearly universal reach and, more significantly, the highest read and response rates of any communication channel,? he said.

?For the National Cancer Institute who is communicating a message of smoking cessation, there simply is not a more effective or more inclusive method than mobile.?

Mobile Commons is administering the back-end of the National Cancer Institute SMS program.

Targeting teens
The National Cancer Institute is driving sign-ups for the text messaging program through social media as well as organic searches. The organization will roll out a marketing strategy supporting the program over the next few months.

Consumers who opt-in to the program will receive messages leading up to their targeted quit date as well as for up to six weeks following this date.

The pacing of the messages will based on an individual?s quit date. The messages will run in both English and Spanish.

By connecting with young smokers on their mobile phones, NCI hopes to more effectively encourage them to quit since text messaging is such a popular activity among teens and young adults.

Teens exchange an average of nearly 3,500 messages per month, according to data from Nielsen.

Text messaging can also be an important strategy for health care organizations because it can reach a large number of consumers from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

Health care messaging
Text messaging has been shown to be an effective way to reach consumers with healthcare-related messaging.

For example, the New York City Department of Health used Mobile Commons to create a citywide smoking cessation program. Heavy smokers who received the texts were twice as likely to quit as those who did not.

In recognition of the growing use of mobile in health care related marketing, Mobile Commons? recently introduced a new platform for healthcare organizations.

?The use of mobile in health care is growing very rapidly,? Mr. Alpert said. ?There is no question that mobile improves desired outcomes in all aspects of health care messaging.

?This includes some of the most challenging situations, including complex drug and behavior regimens among HIV patients and reaching the most underserved populations with respect to public health priorities such as vaccinations,? he said.

?Every day we see more departments of health, healthcare providers, hospital groups and pharmaceutical companies seeking our help in utilizing mobile to improve those outcomes in a cost-effective manner.?