The role of telehealth in supporting community has become increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Communicating Healthy Beginnings Advice by Telephone (CHAT) program delivers intervention through telephone and short message service (SMS) to support mother’s and child’s health.
CHAT program is delivered at opportunistic moments to address key milestones of the child’s growth from 3rd trimester until 3 years of the child’s age. In this 3-arm randomised controlled trial study, 1,155 mother-child dyads were randomised into telephone, SMS, or control groups. The study has recently been published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Overall this study showed both telephone and SMS supports may increase desired health behaviours, with telephone support offering greater effects in promoting healthy feeding practices such as cup use and appropriate timing of introducing solid foods than SMS support.
Compared to control group, telephone support led to appropriate timing of introducing solid foods, and early-start tummy time at 6 months of the child’s age, and less screen time and no bottle at bedtime at 12 months of the child’s age. The use of SMS also led to less screen time and no bottle use at bedtime at 12 months of the child’s age as compared to the control group. No significant differences were found in breastfeeding rates between the three groups.
Findings of this study demonstrate that telehealth is promising in reducing risks for childhood obesity and could well be the answer to the current crisis we face in delivering effective care while face-to-face health services are limited. As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads, the need for mothers and their children to home isolate may become greater on a global scale. The CHAT program offers convenience to the mother as it is delivered at a time when it suits her and her child. It is not reliant on availability of transportation, location or weather conditions.
CHAT study is still ongoing. For more information about the study intervention, please check out Healthy Beginnings website. Stay tuned for more research findings from CHAT!