Background: Cell phone text messaging is gaining increasing recognition as an important tool that can be harnessed for prevention and intervention programs across a wide variety of health research applications. Despite the growing body of literature reporting positive outcomes, very little is available about the design decisions that scaffold the development of text messaging-based health interventions. What seems to be missing is documentation of the thought process of investigators in the initial stages of protocol and content development. This omission is of particular concern because many researchers seem to view text messaging as the intervention itself instead of simply a delivery mechanism. Certainly, aspects of this technology may increase participant engagement. Like other interventions, however, the content is a central driver of the behavior change. Objective: To address this noted gap in the literature, we discuss the protocol decisions and content development for SMS Turkey (or Cebiniz birakin diyor in Turkish), a smoking cessation text messaging program for adult smokers in Turkey. Methods: Content was developed in English and translated into Turkish. Efforts were made to ensure that the protocol and content were grounded in evidence-based smoking cessation theory, while also reflective of the cultural aspects of smoking and quitting in Turkey. Results: Methodological considerations included whether to provide cell phones and whether to reimburse participants for texting costs; whether to include supplementary intervention resources (eg, personal contact); and whether to utilize unidirectional versus bidirectional messaging. Program design considerations included how messages were tailored to the quitting curve and one’s smoking status after one’s quit date, the number of messages participants received per day, and over what period of time the intervention lasted. Conclusion: The content and methods of effective smoking cessation quitline programs were a useful guide in developing SMS Turkey. Proposed guidelines in developing text messaging-based behavior change programs are offered.
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