Views from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Healthy Lives prize for text message smoking cessation research

A smoking cessation programme delivered through mobile technology, which has been adopted by the NHS and internationally, has won the Bupa Foundation Healthy Lives Prize.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the University of Auckland developed txt2stop – a personalised support programme delivered by text message – and found it doubled quit rates.

Lead researcher, Dr Caroline Free,  Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and GP in London. said “Smoking is such a difficult habit to break and, with tobacco use being the leading cause of preventable death, it’s important to find effective ways to help people quit.

“Mobile phones have been so widely adopted, and are a cost effective way to deliver health messages tailored to a person’s age, sex, ethnic group and location,”

Following the publication of the trial results in The Lancet in 2011, the principal investigator worked with the Department of Health in England to develop a new NHS service providing text message support for smoking cessation. Since the launch of the service in January 2012, more than 44,000 people have received text message based smoking cessation support.

The results of the trial have led researchers in Sweden, USA, India and Italy, and the World Health Organization to develop local smoking cessation support programmes delivered by text message.

“The Bupa Foundation prize money will be used to fund follow-on research to develop text message support for smoking cessation for patients undergoing planned surgical procedures,” Dr Free said.

Earlier this year, txt2stop was named the 2011 Royal College of General Practitioners and Novartis Research Paper of the Year.

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