Many people are kicking off the new year with resolutions to improve their health by adopting new behaviors. While the desire to change one’s behavior may be strong at the beginning of the year, it often wanes as time goes by. This drop-off is common in the behavior change cycle, creating a challenge for social marketers to develop tools to support and sustain behavior change. With this challenge in mind, I encourage you in 2013 to think about ways to use mobile technologies, such as the mobile web, applications, and text messaging, to support long-term health behavior change. If you need rationale for taking this step, just look at the compelling findings from Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Mobile Health 2012 report:
- 85% of U.S. adults own a cell phone, and of those, 53% own smartphones
- 31% of cell phone owners have used their phone to look for health information compared to 17% two years ago
- Cell phone owners who are Latino, African American, between the ages of 18-49, or hold a college degree are more likely than others to gather health information on their phones
- 80% of cell phone owners send and receive text messages, but only 9% receive text updates or alerts about health or medical issues
- 52% of smartphone owners gather health information on their phones compared with 6% of non-smartphone owners
- 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone, with exercise, diet, and weight apps being the most popular types
Can mobile technologies coupled with research-based approaches to behavior change facilitate sustained change? I believe the combination offers great potential given the reach afforded by mobile technologies and people’s increasing reliance on their mobile phone, and I hope to see more social marketers, and particularly the Federal Government, take advantage of mobile in 2013.
If you’re ready to add mobile to your arsenal of tools, here are two resources you may find helpful:
- “mBCC Field Guide: A Resource for Developing Mobile Behavior Change Communication Programs” from Abt Associates, Inc. on behalf of the mHealth Working Group
- “Motivating Change with Mobile: Seven Guidelines” by Margaret Morris, a senior researcher at Intel
Is mobile a priority for you this year? Are you currently working on a mobile project designed to change behavior? Let us know in the comments.