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Text Messaging for Public Health Emergencies

NWCPHP-affiliated researchers identified the logistical, legal, fiscal, and technical implications of setting up a text messaging system at a local public health department.

NWCPHP-affiliated researchers based at Public Health - Seattle & King County investigated whether it is feasible for public health agencies to implement texting systems as an effective way to convey public health information.

Someone texting on their cell phoneResearchers studied:

  • Whether avid “texters” would sign up to receive emergency messages from public health agencies.
  • How and why people text, and whether message source makes a difference.
  • Use of text messaging by specific populations, including: urban, rural, Latino and Native American young adults, refugees, and deaf and hard of hearing people of all ages.

Researchers also identified the logistical, legal, fiscal, and technical implications of setting up a text messaging system at a local public health department. Their findings are available to public health agencies interested in using text messaging to reach targeted populations.

This research received Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding as a Northwest Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center project.

Project period: September 30, 2008 to September 29, 2012

Research Team

Mark Oberle, MD, MPH
Principal Investigator

Hilary Karasz, PhD
Co-Investigator

Meredith Li-Vollmer, PhD
Co-Investigator

Sharon Bogan, MPH
Project Manager

Publications & Products

Text Messaging to Communicate With Public Health Audiences: How the HIPAA Security Rule Affects Practice
Academic Article, American Journal of Public Health

What 2 Know B4 U Text: Short Message Service Options for Local Health Departments
Academic Article, Washington State Journal of Public Health Practice

Can u txt me now? Text Messaging to the Deaf for Emergencies
NACCHO Preparedness Brief

What Community Members Want from Public Health Text Messages
NACCHO Preparedness Brief

SMS Texting for Public Health Communication
Video Training Series, Resources, Public Health - Seattle & King County

Related Content

New Text Messaging Video Series Available

National Public Health Information Coalition Silver Award for Texting Videos

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Making Texting Work for Public Health