In Vietnam, where more than half of men smoke, text messages are being studied as a means of reducing tobacco use through a Fogarty-supported grant to the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMass). These messages, written by former Vietnamese smokers, are intended to motivate smokers to quit with help from cessation counselors via the Bach Mai Quitline in Vietnam. Smokers who call the quitline are provided with support and advice on smoking cessation, and free nicotine replacement therapy if they agree to quit.
The system is based on one used successfully in the U.S. to get smokers to kick the habit, but with messages adapted to the culture and needs of Vietnamese. Early results from the project have found that many Vietnamese smokers cite family and work as the main reasons they want to quit smoking, and text messages are being crafted to address those motivations.
The project uses technology – sending the text messages – to foster human interaction between smokers and quitline counsellors, said Dr. Tom Houston, the health informatics and implementation science researcher and UMass professor who’s leading the project. “There will certainly be benefits from the texting system in and of itself, but we expect those will be enhanced by encouraging people to speak with quitline counsellors.”
The project is also providing training in tobacco control and the motivational systems for a Vietnamese mobile health researcher, and supporting development of a practice-based research network in the country“
As a nation, Vietnam is really moving forward with tobacco control efforts and Fogarty is riding a rising tide of tobacco control efforts,” said Houston. “So this is really an exciting collaboration.”
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