mHealth campaign promotes diabetes awareness in India

mHealth Campaign

RSPH researchers are part of a new global initiative that uses mobile text messaging to raise diabetes awareness in India.

Led by Arogya World, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, the mobile health (mHealth) project aims to reach 1 million rural and urban consumers during the next two years.

It is one of the first nationwide diabetes mHealth campaigns in a developing country. Arogya World is implementing the campaign in partnership with Rollins and organizations from multiple sectors in India and the United States, including LifeScan Inc., Aetna, Biocon, and Ipsos.

Linelle Blais, director of the Diabetes Training and Technical Assistance Center at Rollins, and program associate Mallory Waters 11MPH worked with Arogya World to develop the mHealth messages in 12 commonly used languages. Arogya World’s Behavior Change Task Force, which includes experts from the United States, United Kingdom, and India, reviewed the messages for cultural relevancy and technical accuracy.

“While most people in India don’t have access to computers or smartphones, they do use regular cell phones,” says Waters. “Many of them don’t know that diabetes can be prevented. By using targeted text messages, we can educate them by providing information and cues to action for healthy eating and physical activity.”

According to the World Diabetes Foundation, more than 50 million people in India live with diabetes—the largest global population with the disease. It is one of the major causes of premature illness and death worldwide, with 70% of current cases occurring in low- and middle-income countries like India.

Arogya World, Rollins, and their partners will work with the market research firm Ipsos to measure how effectively mHealth increases diabetes awareness and adoption of healthy lifestyles in India. As Nalini Saligram, founder of Arogya World and a member of the RSPH Dean’s Council, notes, “Tough challenges in global health can be best addressed through public-private partnerships—no one organization can do it alone.”—Jennifer Johnson

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