What Is a Text?

Text messages are 160-character messages received on a cell phone. Text messages can be sent from another cell phone or from a web-based interface. Text messages are also known as SMS messages160-character messages sent over a cell phone or through a web-based interface to one or more cell phone recipients. or "short message service" messages.

How Do You Send a Text to Many People at Once?

Web-based interfaces allow you to send messages to many people at one time and to track those messages. SMS vendorsCompanies that provide a web-based interface to store contact lists and manage the flow of messages from the sender to cellular phone carriers. provide the interface for a fee, and they make sure your text messages get to the recipient.

Web-based interfaces rely on short codesFive or six-digit special telephone numbers used for sending SMS messages. and long codes, dedicated "phone numbers" that are used to transfer messages. Most programs use short codes, which are owned and regulated by cell phone carriers. SMS vendors can help you gain access to a code, for a fee. Short codes are often used to opt in subscribers to your messaging service. Long codes (which simply contain more digits) are less expensive, but also less reliable. They also require your end users to remember more digits, which makes marketing more challenging.

How Can I Use Text Messages for Public Health Communications?

In public health, you can use text messages for:

  • Community monitoring and feedback
  • Health promotion
  • Medical compliance
  • Emergency notification
  • Appointment reminders to discourage client no-show rates
  • Encouraging prompt STD and HIV testing
  • Collecting aggregate disease data from hospital partners in real time
  • Helping clients or the public with health issues like pre-natal care, diabetes, sexual health, physical activity, nutrition, and smoking.

While texting for health is relatively new, a properly designed, marketed, and delivered texting program can impact health for a wide variety of audiences, including your community's most vulnerable.

Move ahead to the next topic Program Planning.

Photo of woman texting