How a lifesaving SMS program won the Google Impact Challenge
"What we have devised is a very simple solution to a very complex problem, one that will help millions of people around the world.”
Chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and lung disease are among the world’s biggest killers, claiming 38 million lives each year around the world.
In response to this devastating burden, The George Institute’s Clara Chow, Julie Redfern and a team of researchers came up with a simple but ingenious program that helped patients manage their conditions and stay healthy, using nothing more than simple mobile phone text messages.
What did The George Institute do?
TEXTCARE is a personalised text messaging support program designed to support people with a whole range of chronic diseases. It uses complex algorithms to deliver SMSs that encourage people to make changes such as taking their medications as prescribed, stopping smoking, taking up exercise or eating more healthily.
Studies in 2015 showed dramatic results with people receiving the texts nearly 1.4 times as likely to exercise, as well as 44 per cent more likely to control their blood pressure and 33 per cent more likely to quit smoking. Research has also found the texts can double the odds of people taking their medications correctly.
“Sometimes people just need ongoing encouragement to change their lifestyles, especially when they are confronted with the daily challenges outside of hospital and this program addresses that problem,” said Prof Chow.
“Too many of us have lost loved ones to stroke or heart attack, illnesses that in many cases are entirely preventable. What we have devised is a very simple solution to a very complex problem, one that will help millions of people around the world.”
Success in the Google Impact Challenge
In October 2016, Google announced that TEXTCARE was a finalist in its Google Impact Challenge, a competition for non-profit organisations to win up to $750,000 to roll programs aimed at society’s biggest challenges. The 10 finalists were selected from hundreds of applications, with The George Institute going against the likes of World Vision.
After an intense three-week public voting campaign, Clara and her team were named as one of the judges’ choice winners, walking away with the full $750,000 prize. The panel of judges included Lucy Turnbull, CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall, David Gonski and the worldwide head of Google’s charitable arm, Jacquelline Fuller.
Professor Chow said: “It’s a fantastic honour as we were up against some incredible finalists. We also are delighted to be able to work with such an innovative company such as Google.
“This award will make a huge difference to the lives of people here in Australia and around the world. We have already proven our project works, prevents heart attack and stroke and enables people to live healthier and longer lives. Now we can take this into the community and really start to make a difference.”
The George Institute will also receive mentorship and training from both Google and Social Ventures Australia.
What a day! To all #GoogleImpactChallenge finalists, thank you for inspiring us to help solve the world's biggest issues @GoogleOrg pic.twitter.com/9vaWxppCT2
— Google Australia NZ (@googledownunder) October 26, 2016