Mobile phone text messages (SMS) are a promising method of health promotion, but a simple and low cost way to obtain phone numbers is required to reach a wide population. We conducted a randomised controlled trial with simultaneous brief interventions to (i) evaluate effectiveness of messages related to safer sex and sun safety and (ii) pilot the use of mobile advertising for health promotion. Mobile advertising subscribers aged 16-29 years residing in Victoria, Australia (n = 7606) were randomised to the ‘sex’ or ‘sun’ group and received eight messages during the 2008-2009 summer period. Changes in sex- and sun-related knowledge and behaviour were measured by questionnaires completed on mobile phones. At follow-up, the sex group had significantly higher sexual health knowledge and fewer sexual partners than the sun group. The sun group had no change in hat-wearing frequency compared with a significant decline in hat-wearing frequency in the sex group. This is the first study of mobile advertising for health promotion, which can successfully reach most young people. Challenges experienced with project implementation and evaluation should be considered as new technological approaches to health promotion continue to be expanded.
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