Costa Rica Ministry of Health launches mHealth for Smoking Cessation
The first country to officially participate in the mHealth Initiative for Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) is Costa Rica. The Ministry of Health approached the WHO-ITU initiative with the aim of reducing the number of tobacco-related diseases in the country. Starting in January 2013, the Be He@lthy, Be Mobile team began working closely with Costa Rica to produce a mobile cessation programme for smokers wanting to quit.
The programme, called “SMS” (Sistema de Mensajes Saludables, or Healthy Messages System) was ready to be launched in August 2013, with the first stage of implementation lasting 6 months. The objective is to contribute to reducing the prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases in the population, specifically those related to the consumption of tobacco, and is aimed at the estimated 500,000 smokers in Costa Rica.
To join the programme, smokers send a text message to a special number with the phrase "I want to quit". They then receive a series of text messages helping them to explore their behaviour, encouraging them in their quest to stop smoking, and giving advice. To raise awareness of the programme, an advertising campaign featuring football players from the clubs Deportivo Saprissa and Liga Deportiva Alajuelense was released nationally in the media during the first half of 2013.