A new study from the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that Planned Parenthood’s live text chat hotline helps relieve teens’ anxiety. The hotline, which responds to teens’ questions via SMS or online chat quickly and privately, has been helping worried teens receive personalized health information for their pressing questions for three years. Teens can chat with a health educator about their concerns, and receive accurate information and advice about the next steps they should take.
The study, titled “Using Chat and Text Technologies to Answer Sexual and Reproductive Health Questions: Planned Parenthood Pilot Study,” shows that the program is particularly useful in relieving the anxiety of the most vulnerable populations: young and minority teens. It concluded that the program can be an effective, immediate tool in relieving stress relating to STIs and pregnancy. The live text, advertised on popular programs like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, reaches younger audiences, and teens who were not necessarily doing their own research.
According to the study:
Embarrassment and concerns about confidentiality can act as barriers to teens seeking sexual and reproductive health information from parents, peers, doctors, and/or other adults… teens and young adults may prefer the anonymity that instant and SMS text messaging provide.
The ability to deliver sexual health information immediately and without judgment has made the program wildly popular: over 250,000 teens have used it in the past three years. The study does not mince words about why this is so important: the US has a startlingly high pregnancy and STI infection rate among teens, which can be linked to a dearth of available sexual education.
In a follow up piece about the study, the New York Times praised the program’s ability to give teens access to a live health educator:
One advantage of offering an expert instead of an information bank is that a staff member can ask another person questions to figure out what’s really going on, or can make sure that an anxious person really understood an answer, and can rephrase it if necessary. And a live, anonymous expert? That’s a person a teenager or young adult can really lay out a whole situation to without feeling embarrassed or judged.
To access the live chat hotline, text a message to 774636, or visit Planned Parenthood’s website.