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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Michigan Researchers: Texting Gives a Voice to Urban Communities

If you want to learn more about the people in urban communities—from their health habits to what their neighborhood needs—save a stamp on mailing a survey. Just text them.

A new pilot study among low-income African-Americans in Detroit suggests that there is a clear preference on how residents choose to communicate—whether it is by researchers asking questions for a health study or community advocates gauging resource needs. They want you to talk to them through their phones.


[Dr. Michele Heisler]

“Our study shows great potential to connect with a population that’s traditionally difficult to reach. Texting is a simple technology that is already being used for everyday communication—it is something people from all backgrounds are very comfortable with,” says lead author Dr. Tammy Chang, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

“This is a group whose attitudes and perceptions are incredibly important to understand, but who may not necessarily be taking online surveys or attending community meetings. We found that texting is not only acceptable and feasible but is the preferred method of collecting real time information from low-income community members.  Most importantly, texting may offer an efficient, inexpensive way to give a voice to people who aren’t often heard and whose needs aren’t always met.”

The study, which appears online in BioMed Central Public Health, was a collaboration among researchers at the U-M Health System, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center and non-profit Detroit organization, Friends of Parkside. SPH faculty member Dr. Michele Heisler, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health’s department of health behavior and health education, served as one of the study’s co-authors.

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