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RESEARCH ARTICLE

16. A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL OF THE IMPACT OF EMAIL AND TEXT (SMS) MESSAGES ON THE SEXUAL HEALTH OF YOUNG PEOPLE

M. S. C. Lim, J. S. Hocking, C. K. Aitken, L. Jordan, C. K. Fairley, J. A. Lewis and M. E. Hellard

Sexual Health 4(4) 290 - 290
Published: 23 November 2007

Abstract

Objective: To trial a novel method of sexual health promotion - sending email and mobile phone text messages (SMS) about safe sex and STI to promote reductions in STI behaviours and increases in STI knowledge and testing.

Methods: Young people (aged 16-29) were recruited at a music festival in Melbourne. They completed a questionnaire about sexual risk behaviour and were randomised to either the intervention arm of the study (to receive messages) or a control group. Text messages were sent every 3-4 weeks for a twelve month period and included catchy STI prevention slogans. Emails were sent monthly and contained detailed information about STI topics and links to related websites. Participants completed follow-up questionnaires online after 3, 6 and 12 months. Clustered weighted estimating equations were used to compare outcomes of the two groups.

Results: 994 people completed at least one questionnaire (507 in the intervention group and 487 in the control group); at baseline 58% were female, the median age was 19 years and 82% had ever had sex. At 12 months, STI knowledge was higher among the intervention group for both males (OR 3.19, 95% CI 1.52, 6.69) and females (OR 2.36, 95% CI 1.27, 4.37). Females in the intervention group were also more likely to have discussed sexual health with a clinician (OR 2.92, 95% CI 1.66, 5.15) and to have had an STI test in the past 6 months (OR 2.51, 95% CI 1.11, 5.69). There were no significant differences in condom use between the groups. Respondents' opinions of the SMS and emails were positive.

Conclusions: Receiving regular sexual health-related SMS and email messages can improve knowledge in young people and health seeking behaviour in young women. SMS and email are low cost, widely available and convenient, which - when combined with their popularity among youth - means that these media have considerable potential for sexual health promotion.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SHv4n4Ab16

© CSIRO 2007

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