Our mDiabetes program is Arogya’s ambitious effort to use text messages to educate millions in India on diabetes prevention through healthy living.
Our flagship effort in 2011 – 2013 was done with Nokia in 1,052,633 Indians – it was the largest text/voice message-based diabetes prevention program in the world. With this groundbreaking effort, we sent 56 messages to more than one million people about diabetes and its prevention in 12 languages twice a week for 6 months (total # messages = 56 million+) and tested the program’s effectiveness in bringing about behavior change known to prevent diabetes. The program has been shown to work (>20% impact) in participants from all over India and a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
mDiabetes text messages are available in the following 12 languages: English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, Punjabi, Assamese, and Oriya.
Mobile phones are widely used in India, throughout different geographic regions and socio-economic backgrounds. There are said to be about 900 million cell phone subscribers in India.
And we know from the WHO 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.
mDiabetes was designed as a population-level nationwide public health intervention using mobile technology to establish health behaviors known to prevent diabetes.
Messages are provided to motivated consumers twice a week for six months.
Arogya World developed the original 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. We then refined the messages, adapting them culturally for Indian audiences based on consumer feedback and review by our Behavior Change Task Force (made up of top health experts in India and the US). Nokia Life provided the translation and transmission infrastructure.
Program effectiveness was assessed by comparing responses of 950 consumers, based on telephone interviews, before and after they received the messages, and also by comparing them with the responses of a similar number of consumers who did not receive mDiabetes messages.
Consumers’ awareness of diabetes and its complications increased, and promising trends in behavior change were noted. The study was published with Northwestern University and other top researchers, in the Journal of Medical and Internet Research. We showed that greater than 20 percent more people improved multiple health behaviors as a result of receiving our texts about diabetes prevention.
Having shown proof of concept, we are expanding and evolving the mDiabetes program:
- The program was selected for Google’s AI for Social Good Workshop in Q1 2021. In 2022, the study was completed in Gulbarga in rural South India (Using_Reinforcement_Learning_for_Health_Intervention (3)
- In partnership with Gram Vaani, mDiabetes was introduced to communities in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and NCR in February 2022. Arogya World along with Gram Vaani reached out to 29,000 individuals with messages on diabetes prevention and healthy living, through IVR and SMS. The project was completed in 2022.
- In March 2021, with support from RIST, and in partnership with LV Prasad Eye Institute, we kicked off a program to educate 100,000 villagers in the Hyderabad area about mDiabetes. The project was completed in the first half of 2023 and a manuscript is in preparation.
- We completed the program with 300,000 motivated consumers in Tamilnadu (2017-2020), with RIST support. Working with teams at Aravind Eye Hospital, we recruited patients and family members from the Aravind community and sent them text and voice messages in English or Tamil. We found encouraging program effectiveness in improving health behaviors.
- With support from Ambuja Cement Foundation, in Jan 2020, Arogya World India Trust initiated mDiabetes in multiple states to educate 25,000 people on diabetes prevention.
- In 2019 and 2020, with support from Lions Clubs District 317 A and Lions Clubs International Foundation, we educated 25,000 people in Bangalore on mDiabetes.