Acceptability of an early childhood obesity prevention program delivered via telephone calls or text messages

A new study is published examining participant experiences of receiving the Healthy Beginnings program, an early childhood obesity prevention program, via telephone calls or text messages.  Mahalakshmi Ekambareshwar, led the process evaluation study as part of her PhD, and showed how various program delivery modes can increase participants’ engagement, improve equity and increase program reach.

The CHAT trial (Communicating Healthy Beginnings Advice by Telephone) is an early childhood obesity prevention program delivered by telephone or text messages to first time mothers in NSW from late pregnancy through to the child’s first two years of life.  Participants’ experiences of the CHAT program were explored using a multimethod evaluation approach. Overall, participants found the program to be highly acceptable and valued its flexibility while providing a personalised stage-based information and opportunity to communicate with health professionals via telephone.

A participant who received the content via text message said,  “When I receive the text messages, when alone at home with the baby, when you get a message like that, it sort of brightens your day  … oh, someone is thinking about me … “.

Another participant on the telephone intervention commented,  “I would like every, at least first-time mum, to experience all this. I think it’s a blessing to have such a program.”

However, several participants found the time commitment for the telephone calls were burdensome on top of other caring responsibilities.  Some participants also expressed a need for a combination of different modes, such as text messages along with telephone calls; with text messages solely seen as nudges or reminders.  Choice and flexibility in mode of delivery, along with multiple modes of information delivery is desired and can increase program engagement.   For further information on participants’ experiences please refer to the article.

If scaled up, CHAT trial’s mode of delivery via telephone calls and/or text messages has particular relevance in situations such as the COVID-19 where there is the likelihood of women facing isolation and unable to seek face-to-face information and support.

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