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BMC Public Health. 2020 Mar 12;20(1):310. doi: 10.1186/s12889-020-8427-0.

Experiences and intentions of Ugandan household tuberculosis contacts receiving test results via text message: an exploratory study.

Author information

Uganda Tuberculosis Implementation Research Consortium, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
Child Health and Development Centre, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Population Studies, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
Uganda Tuberculosis Implementation Research Consortium, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences and Department of Epidemiology, New York University School of Global Public Health, New York, NY, USA.
Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine Section, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.



The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends household contact investigation for tuberculosis (TB) in high-burden countries. However, household contacts who complete evaluation for TB during contact investigation may have difficulty accessing their test results. Use of automated short-messaging services (SMS) to deliver test results could improve TB status awareness and linkage to care. We sought to explore how household contacts experience test results delivered via SMS, and how these experiences influence follow-up intentions.


We conducted semi-structured interviews with household contacts who participated in a randomized controlled trial evaluating home sputum collection and delivery of TB results via SMS (Pan-African Clinical Trials Registry #201509000877140). We asked about feelings, beliefs, decisions, and behaviors in response to the SMS results. We analyzed the content and emerging themes in relation to the Theory of Planned Behavior.


We interviewed and achieved thematic saturation with ten household contacts. Nine received TB-negative results and one a TB-positive result. Household contacts reported relief upon receiving SMS confirming their TB status, but also said they lacked confidence in the results delivered by SMS. Some worried that negative results were incorrect until they spoke to a lay health worker (LHW). Household contacts said their long-term intentions to request help or seek care were influenced by perceived consequences of not observing the LHW's instructions related to the SMS and follow-up procedures; beliefs about the curability of TB; anticipated support from LHWs; and perceived barriers to responding to an SMS request for further evaluation.


Household contacts experienced relief when they received results. However, they were less confident about results delivered via SMS than results delivered by LHWs. Delivery of results by SMS should complement continued interaction with LHWs, not replace them.


Community health worker; Mobile phone; Text message; Tuberculosis; mHealth

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