News / Health

Project Uses Texting to Help South African Diabetes Patients

A pilot medical study by the University of California, Los Angeles, or UCLA, uses mobile phones to help diabetes patients in South Africa. Our correspondent spoke with the physician behind the study, Neal Kaufman, about the expanding role of technology in personalized health care.

The UCLA project uses texting on mobile phones to encourage patients with type 2 diabetes to adopt more healthful lifestyles.

Dr. Kaufman, a professor of pediatrics and public health at UCLA, says this form of the disease, called adult-onset diabetes, is becoming common, even among children. He says the problem is in our genes.

"Our genetics have programmed us to want to eat sugar, salt and fat, and to be as inactive as possible," he said. "And that's what allowed us to survive when there was famine and when there was not enough food, when we didn't want to burn any calories."

Today, he says fat, salt and calories are too readily available and that health care practitioners must find ways to urge patients to avoid them. Text-messages provide one way to do that.

The South African study pairs low-income women with type 2 diabetes and links them by cell phone. Each day, a computer program sends an automated message to prompt a conversation between the women. The message might ask whether they ate a healthy breakfast or simply how they are feeling.

"The text message will ask them a question. That question, they answer to their peer as a way to begin a conversation or to encourage a conversation between peers," said Dr. Kaufman. "And what we find is that a lot of these women who would otherwise be isolated and not have someone they could talk with are texting back and forth to each other, which they've never done before, in a way that's really quite supportive."

The text messages are supplemented by group meetings to help educate patients and provide face-to-face support.

Dr. Kaufman developed the program through a company he co-founded called DPS Health - one of many initiatives that uses technology in health care.

The South African project fosters peer-to-peer support and Dr. Kaufman says it has the advantage of being inexpensive. If the program proves successful, it can be expanded to a larger population at low cost. Most important, Dr. Kaufman says, it does not require a computer or Internet connection.

Other technologies connect patients to physicians or offer online chat rooms moderated by a trained medical practitioner. Internet sites provide prenatal advice for mothers or allow patients with specific medical conditions to share advice and comments. Some sites are moderated by trained professionals.

Dr. Kaufman says this type of technology will be an increasingly important link between patients and medical providers.

"We basically believe that most outcomes from chronic conditions can be improved if you help patients to help themselves," said Dr. Kaufman. "Some people call that self-management support - managing their daily lives, helping them take their medicines, helping them to be more active, helping them to adopt health behaviors."

Dr. Kaufman says the South Africa study will yield important information on how a population of middle-aged diabetes patients responds to text prompts from mobile phones. He says results so far show that patients are interacting and encouraging each other.

The UCLA researcher says the project is part of a trend to connect patients.

"We know that social support is the wonder drug of the 21st century, that connecting people to other people - whether it's in person, whether it's online, whether it's through a cell phone - is really a very, very powerful medicine," he said.

The World Health Organization says six people die every minute from complications from diabetes and that the prevalence of the disease is rising rapidly. It says the largest number of diabetes patients is in India, followed by China.

Dr. Kaufman says that if the UCLA project is successful, it can be applied to low-income diabetes patients around the world, including in the United States, where the disease is also a major problem.

You May Like

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs