Inspiration at the touch of a button helping women with gestational diabetes thanks to western Sydney researchers and Westmead Hospital

Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Dr Wah Cheung and his team have found that among women who have recently had gestational diabetes, the receipt of a healthy lifestyle text message increases physical activity.

Wah is the Director of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Westmead Hospital and said the study found that women who have just had gestational diabetes “increased their step count in the four hours after a text message was sent compared to the same period of time on days when there was no message”.

“Text messages are an inexpensive and simple way to deliver healthy lifestyle messages, explained Wah.

As pretty much everyone has a mobile phone, text message based healthy lifestyle programs can be developed for large population groups.”

Text message examples:
“Walk 10 minutes to go to the shops. Every bit of activity counts!”

“It is OK for breast-feeding mums to perform exercise like walking and cycling.”

“Try cutting up some fruit into plain low fat yoghurt. It makes a great filling snack.”

This program is just one of a few new, revolutionary, public health text messaging programs being used in WSLHD.

TEXTMEDS has successfully informed and supported heart attack survivors on how to prevent a second heart attack.

The randomised controlled study led by Westmead Hospital cardiologist and academic Director and Professor of Medicine at Westmead Applied Research Centre at the University of Sydney, Dr Clara Chow, investigated whether text messages and telephone patient support could improve risk factors in people who are at high risk of subsequent cardiovascular events.

The trial was a first-of-a kind in implementing a systematic digital health intervention across about 20 hospitals across urban and rural Australia

Another example is EMPOWER-SMS, the brainchild of Anna Singleton, a PhD student and research associate at the University of Sydney, who worked under the supervision of specialist breast surgeon and Head of Research at the BCI, Associate Professor Elisabeth Elder to co-design and lead a clinical trial of the SMS program.

EMPOWER-SMS is a patient-centred SMS education service which will now be part of standard care at WSLHD’s Westmead Breast Cancer Institute (BCI), following a successful trial that lasted almost four years.

The program delivers six months of mental health and healthy living text message support to patients, as well as generating medication reminders and linking them to free services, websites and programs that promote wellness after breast cancer.