Rutgers School of Public Health department of urban-global public health chair, Dr. Leslie Kantor, has co-authored a study, “The Influence of Technology Delivery Mode on Intervention Outcomes: Analysis of a Theory-Based Sexual Health Program,” which shows that Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s innovative national Chat/Text program is just as effective at improving young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health care whether they had their conversations via text, desktop chat, or mobile chat.
Chat/Text allows young people with questions about their sexual and reproductive health to converse live with a trained health educator in real time, using text messaging or instant messaging. It is the largest service of its kind, with users from all 50 states and more than one million conversations held since it started in 2010.
Chat/Text conversations provide personalized guidance based on each user’s questions and needs, and relies on an evidence-based protocol rooted in behavioral science to help users create a plan to take the next steps to improve their health. Today’s study found that the mode used to access the program (text, desktop chat, or mobile chat) didn’t affect users’ intention to act on the plan they made, and that all the modes are useful in helping young people get the care they need. Each mode works across gender and race/ethnicity as well.
“We’re proud that our Chat/Text program is helping young people get the information they need to stay healthy and reach their life goals, no matter how they access it,” said Ms. Nicole Levitz, director of Digital Products at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and lead author of the study. “At a time when fewer young people are getting sex education in schools, it’s important that there are places online where they can get accurate answers to their questions. Chat/Text provides personalized, evidence-based conversations with health educators in real time for young people who need accurate, compassionate sexual and reproductive health information that is relevant to their experiences. Planned Parenthood is committed to providing accurate, nonjudgmental information to as many young people as possible, wherever they are and whenever they need it most.”
A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2016 found that the percentage of teens who received sex education dropped significantly between 2006 and 2013, particularly for those living in nonmetropolitan areas. The study showed that 21 percent of females and 35 percent of males didn’t receive any information about birth control in school or from their parents.
Planned Parenthood is committed to finding new ways to reach people wherever they are with information, resources, and connections to health care. A 2015 national survey found that among all media, the internet is the primary source of health information for teens, far surpassing books, TV, radio, newspapers, or magazines. Eighty-four percent of teens have gotten health information online, including information about STDs, puberty, and pregnancy. As well, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth often turn to online resources in search of accurate information on sexuality and sexual health.
This study confirms that Chat/Text is helping young people get the information and care they need to improve their health, no matter how they access the program,” said Dr. Kantor. “We previously found chatting with an educator can lower people’s anxiety, and in this study we find it also helps young people identify and plan to take the next best step for them in taking care of their health.
This study joins previous research about the success of Planned Parenthood’s Chat/Text program. A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2013 showed that, in its first year, the program was able to successfully reach young people with critical information about sex and health when they were in need of fast, confidential help. It was shown to be successful in reducing worry, particularly among teens ages 17 and younger and Latino users. Findings presented at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting in 2016 found that Planned Parenthood’s Chat/Text program has a significant impact on people’s health behaviors — including increasing health center visits, increasing use of condoms in addition to another method of birth control (“dual use”), and increasing interest in the most effective methods of birth control.
Chat/Text Users can chat from the Planned Parenthood website at: plannedparenthood.org/chat or text “PPNOW” to 774636 (PPINFO) to get answers about pregnancy, birth control, emergency contraception, STDs, and abortion. Seventy-nine percent of users are 15-24 years old (the age range for which the program was designed) and 91 percent are 29 years old or younger. About half of users identify as people of color.
“The Influence of Technology Delivery Mode on Intervention Outcomes: Analysis of a Theory-Based Sexual Health Program,” was recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.