36482 Fittext: Using a Multi-Channel Approach, Driven By SMS, to Increase Fitness Levels Among a Geographically Dispersed Niche Audience

Barbara Blue, MA, Booz Allen Hamilton, Raleigh, NC, Colleen Gray, BA, Booz Allen Hamilton, Winston Salem, NC and Lisa Brown, BA, Booz Allen Hamilton, St. Louis, MO

Background: Army National Guard (ARNG) Soldiers can be deployed at any time. To assess Soldier’s physical readiness, they must pass an annual Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). ARNG Soldiers wear at least two caps: Citizen and Soldier. These dual roles create unique challenges—and may negatively affect the ability to maintain fitness for duty. Because they only drill monthly, many Soldiers have difficulty accessing ARNG resources needed to help keep them healthy and fit for duty.

Program background: According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 97 percent of participants used texting during the course of the reporting period. Sixty-four percent of participants said that smartphones were their preferred channel for receiving health-related information. Implementing a health promotion texting program presented an opportunity for the ARNG to bridge the gap for Soldiers whose units’ gather only monthly. In April 2015, the ARNG’s health-promotion program, Guard Your Health, launched the “FitText” initiative (http://www.guardyourhealth.com/fit-text/), using social marketing techniques to help Soldiers maximize physical training and prepare for the APFT. FitText provides tips, demonstration videos, and links to resources/tools to keep on track. The initiative is driven by text message, but includes complimentary Web content, such as infographics, printable guides, Tumblr posts, and responsive website pages. Participants receive two to four texts per week, which include links to workout plans and prep guides that are tailored for 90, 60, 30, and seven days out from their APFT test date. Texts include actionable nutrition and fitness tips, and motivational messages to help Soldiers stay on track.

Evaluation Methods and Results:Although FitText just launched, it has received promising participation. In just two weeks, the program has nearly 800 subscribers. Traffic to the Guard Your Health website from March 31 to April 20, 2015 is 278% higher than the same timeframe last year. This can be partially attributed to FitText (the landing page has received 2,000 page views since pre-promotion started on March 31), making it the most popular page on the website during this time. Using tools such as Google Analytics and Sprout Social, the team will do an analysis 90 days after launch to determine impact and make refinements. However, initial data suggests that the target population is interested in receiving SMS to help them stay fit.

Conclusions: Early evidence shows that texting is a preferred channel for Soldiers to receive health-related information. It also suggests that a combination of SMS, email, social media, and Web/mobile functionality could help to drive sustained adoption and participation. 

Implications for research and/or practice: Lessons learned from a past ARNG Small Steps behavior change campaign were applied to FitText. FitText was designed as a long-term initiative to help Soldiers pass the APFT and maintain mission readiness. The multichannel approach, driven by the popularity of texting, can be applied to other behavior change campaigns to keep audiences engaged and help them to reach their desired end behavior.