mDiabetes: Putting Health Information Literally Into the Hand of Consumers

This is a guest post, written by Thea Joselow at Arogya World. Arogya is a global health non-profit organization committed to changing the course of chronic disease by implementing programs for diabetes prevention through lifestyle changes in schools, workplaces, and communities in India.

Diabetes is rampant in India – 60 million-plus Indians are currently living with the disease and one million die from it each year. Furthermore, Indians tend to get the disease at an earlier age – often in their 30s and 40s – during their prime earning years.

In September, Arogya World announced that we have reached more than 1,000,000 people from all over India with a series of 56 diabetes prevention and education text messages in 12 languages, fulfilling a Commitment we made at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting. Analysis of the program is ongoing, but initial results look very promising.

Following the program, consumers’ awareness of diabetes and its complications increased, and promising trends in behavior change included:

  • an 11% increase in daily exercise,
  • a 15% increase in the intake of 2-3 servings of fruits a day,
  • and an 8% increase in 2-3 servings of vegetables a day.

Prevention is Key

Arogya picture

Photo Credit: Nokia

The WHO says that approximately 80% of heart disease and diabetes and 40% of cancers can be prevented through healthy lifestyles such as avoiding tobacco use, eating healthy foods and increasing daily physical activity. We decided to “go big” with mDiabetes because we know that it is a sustainable and scalable model for disease prevention that can be rolled out in countries around the world. And mobile phones are our technology of choice because they are widely used globally – with about 900 million cell phone subscribers in India alone.

How mDiabetes Works

In 2012, Nokia Life helped Arogya World recruit 1,052,633 consumers who opted-in to receive mDiabetes text messages. Messages were provided free to subscribers twice a week for six months. Participants came from all over India and a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.

Arogya World developed the 56 text messages with Emory University in late 2011, based on science and behavior change theory, and then, with Ipsos, consumer-tested them in simulated conditions as well as in the real world. Nokia Life provided the translation and transmission infrastructure, and transmitted more than 56 million mDiabetes text messages to the consumers throughout 2012.

We’re Not Done Yet

After we complete analysis of the first million, Arogya World plans to scale-up the program to reach and help millions more in India and beyond.  Future plans include partnerships with global health organizations, governments and private sector partners to expand the program even farther. We’re also exploring the development of a diabetes prevention “app” for consumers, as well as multimedia content on complications of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

mDiabetes, the largest diabetes prevention mHealth program in the world, was designed and implemented by Arogya World in partnership with Nokia Life.  Other partners include Emory University, Johnson & Johnson, and Ipsos.