Health center launches text message service

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BENNINGTON >> Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) has launched a new service that sends healthy and inspiring text messages to participants' cell phones three times per week. Each one offers a health-related timely, friendly tip or reminder.

"We hope the messaging service encourages members to make healthy choices while also showing that we care about their long-term health," said James Trimarchi, SVHC's director of planning. "We want our community to know that we care about them all the time — not just when they visit their doctor's office."

For example, the message on November 27 — the day after Thanksgiving, which is one of the biggest shopping days of the year — was, "If you're out shopping today, keep in mind that most fast foods are high in salt, fat, and sugar. Carefully choose healthier food options, because to your friends and family, your health is more important than any holiday gift."

Enrollment in the service is easy. Those interested can text "enroll" to 802-768-9224. In response, subscribers will receive a text message with a link to the enrollment agreement and instructions to text "agree" as a response. Those who want to stop receiving the text messages, simply text "stop." SVHC chose to use texts because cell phones have become powerful tools for providing real-time guidance and support. The program was first tested by SVHC employees in November.

Messages may be themed over time to raise awareness of the most important preventive health topics. The first 35 weeks of messages, for instance, were written to address managing and preventing diabetes.

One in 10 Vermonters have diabetes, and one in three Vermonters are at risk of developing the disease. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in Vermont. Although diabetes isn't always preventable, healthy choices can help. Tips that help people prevent diabetes also lead to better health overall. The text messages also work to communicate that SVMC cares for the health and well-being of community members.

Trimarchi add, "We want to communicate with people where they are when they need us. This texting service guides people through healthier choices exactly when they're choosing."


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