Date: August 27, 2011
Journal: Obesity (Obesity (Silver Spring))
Woolford, S. J., K. L. Barr, et al. (2011). "OMG do not say LOL: obese adolescents' perspectives on the content of text messages to enhance weight loss efforts." Obesity (Silver Spring) 19(12): 2382-2387.
Adolescents participating in weight loss programs experience difficulty adhering to behavior change recommendations. Communications technology provides a low cost means to increase the frequency of contact with adolescents which can improve their engagement and also lead to behavior change. Within a larger project on the development of tailored text messages for adolescents enrolled in an existing multidisciplinary weight management program, this study explored participants' perspectives about message content. A library of messages was developed focused on topics central to weight management. Four focus groups were conducted with a total of 24 participants from the weight management program to gage their reactions to the messages. Detailed notes from the focus groups were analyzed to assess the acceptability of individual messages and to identify overriding themes. Results indicate that participants were very enthusiastic about receiving text messages. They preferred messages that provided recipe ideas, included successful weight loss strategies used by peers, and requested feedback regarding their progress. They preferred positive, encouraging, and direct messages. They were unanimous that messages should include encouraging symbols (e.g., exclamation points and "smiley faces") as often as possible. They emphasized that any mention of unhealthy foods or behaviors would trigger them to eat those foods or engage in those behaviors. Text messaging acronyms (e.g., LOL) were considered too informal for messages from healthcare providers. This study suggests that including text messages in obesity interventions is acceptable to obese adolescents as a means of supporting their weight loss efforts, and it highlights the need for such messages to be carefully constructed.