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Health Psychol. 2012 Nov;31(6):797-805. doi: 10.1037/a0027498. Epub 2012 Apr 2.

Short message service reduces dropout in childhood obesity treatment: a randomized controlled trial.

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Department of Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Erasmus MC University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.



Lifestyle programs can reduce the level of overweight in children; however, maintenance results and adherence to treatment are difficult to achieve. New technologies, such as the Short Message Service (SMS), might be a promising tool for enhancing interventions. The effect of an SMS approach aimed at improving treatment results and reducing dropout rates in a pediatric lifestyle intervention, is explored.


Overweight and obese children (N = 141; age 7-12 years) participating in a lifestyle program were randomly assigned to an intervention group receiving an SMS Maintenance Treatment (SMSMT) for 38 weeks (n = 73) or to a control group receiving no SMSMT (n = 68). Children were asked to send weekly self-monitoring data on exercise, eating behavior, and emotional well-being. In return, they received tailored feedback messages. A differential decrease in BMI was analyzed with repeated measures ANOVA and dropout with logistic regression analysis.


We found no significant difference in BMI decrease between the two groups after 12 months; however, we showed that the SMSMT group had 3.25 times less probability of dropping out after 1 year (p = .01) than controls. In the first 3 months of SMSMT, the SMSMT completers sent 0.80 SMSs per week, which reduced to 0.50 SMSs in the final 3 months. Younger children sent more SMSs (p = .03).


These results indicate that SMSMT is effective in reducing dropout rates from a pediatric lifestyle intervention. Future research should examine the effectiveness of SMSMT on weight management and related psychosocial variables.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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