NEW YORK CITY — On September 24, 2013, the Clinton Global Initiative presented a video on the epidemic of diabetes in India before the panel discussion about non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The video vignette focused on the mDiabetes Program recently tested by India’s medical community.
mDiabetes is a diabetes prevention initiative, which uses mobile technology to send text messages containing information about prevention, diagnoses, and tips for healthy eating habits in 12 languages to more than one million people in India. India is home to approximately 900 million cell phone subscribers, which made the approach of text messaging so attractive.
Arogya World, in partnership with Nokia Life (other partners include Emory University, Johnson & Johnson, Aetna, Biocon and Ipsos) deployed the program for testing in 2012 and sent messages twice a week for six months to people from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Because diseases affect cultures differently across the world—the population of India is at risk for diabetes 10 years earlier than those in the West—the development team adapted mDiabetes to the Indian culture based on consumer feedback and program team review.
The results of the program test have been positive so far. Arogya World assessed the responses of 950 consumers who had been receiving the messages and compared them with the responses of the 950 people who had not received any messages. Those that received the messages reported raised awareness of diabetes and its complications and positive trends in behavior change. Overall study results showed an 11 percent increase in daily exercise, a 15 percent increase in consumption of two-to-three fruit servings per day, and an 8 percent increase in consumption of two-to-three vegetable servings per day.
60 million people in India live with diabetes, and 1 million die every year. If untreated this NCD can lead to heart disease, blindness, amputations and kidney failure. According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of diabetes can be prevented by avoiding tobacco use, following a nutritious diet, and incorporating physical activity into a person’s daily lifestyle. Arogya World hopes that mDiabetes will become the “chronic disease prevention model for the developing world.”
– Yuliya Shokh