NIHR | April 2018 | Online ads effective at helping pregnant women stop smoking
An NIHR funded study has found that an online advertising campaign may be more effective in encouraging expectant mothers to quit smoking, than a clinic based intervention. The study was part of a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, University of East Anglia (UEA), and the University of Nottingham (via UEA).
One of the researchers, Dr Felix Naughton, developed MiQuit, which is a text-messaging intervention specifically for pregnant smokers. As it is automated, the women could use it without health professional’s involvement. In tandem with this the research team also advertised links to a website providing MiQuit information on Google and Facebook, which incurred a cost. Adverts were also placed on the National Childbirth Trust and NHS Choices websites free of charge.
The team found that the Facebook advert generated initiations throughout pregnancy, around 50 per cent of those who initiated MiQuit via Google were within their first five weeks’ gestation. Adverts attached to online search engines may therefore be a useful way to reach women when they are first pregnant and looking for support or information about smoking during pregnancy. Currently, the earliest cessation interventions tend to target pregnant smokers at their antenatal booking appointment, at around 8-12 weeks’ gestation.
Lead author of the study, Dr Joanne Emery, Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, said: “This study shows that online advertising appears to be a valuable means of promoting health interventions to hard-to-reach groups.
“We found that a significant minority of pregnant smokers were willing to initiate an automated text messaging intervention when offered this online. Given the high reach of the internet this could translate into substantial numbers of pregnant smokers supported to quit.” As a result of this study’s findings, a more definitive trial is now underway.
An article based on this study has been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research
Background: Smoking in pregnancy is a major public health concern. Pregnant smokers are particularly difficult to reach, with low uptake of support options and few effective interventions. Text message–based self-help is a promising, low-cost intervention for this population, but its real-world uptake is largely unknown.
Objective: The objective of this study was to explore the uptake and cost-effectiveness of a tailored, theory-guided, text message intervention for pregnant smokers (“MiQuit”) when advertised on the internet.
Methods: Links to a website providing MiQuit initiation information (texting a short code) were advertised on a cost-per-click basis on 2 websites (Google Search and Facebook; £1000 budget each) and free of charge within smoking-in-pregnancy webpages on 2 noncommercial websites (National Childbirth Trust and NHS Choices). Daily budgets were capped to allow the Google and Facebook adverts to run for 1 and 3 months, respectively. We recorded the number of times adverts were shown and clicked on, the number of MiQuitinitiations, the characteristics of those initiating MiQuit, and whether support was discontinued prematurely. For the commercial adverts, we calculated the cost per initiation and, using quit rates obtained from an earlier clinical trial, estimated the cost per additional quitter.
Results: With equal capped budgets, there were 812 and 1889 advert clicks to the MiQuitwebsite from Google (search-based) and Facebook (banner) adverts, respectively. MiQuitwas initiated by 5.2% (42/812) of those clicking via Google (95% CI 3.9%-6.9%) and 2.22% (42/1889) of those clicking via Facebook (95% CI 1.65%-2.99%). Adverts on noncommercial webpages generated 53 clicks over 6 months, with 9 initiations (9/53, 17%; 95% CI 9%-30%). For the commercial websites combined, mean cost per initiation was £24.73; estimated cost per additional quitter, including text delivery costs, was £735.86 (95% CI £227.66-£5223.93). Those initiating MiQuit via Google were typically very early in pregnancy (median gestation 5 weeks, interquartile range 10 weeks); those initiating via Facebook were distributed more evenly across pregnancy (median gestation 16 weeks, interquartile range 14 weeks).
Conclusions: Commercial online adverts are a feasible, likely cost-effective method for engaging pregnant smokers in digital cessation support and may generate uptake at a faster rate than noncommercial websites. As a strategy for implementing MiQuit, online advertising has large reach potential and can offer support to a hard-to-reach population of smokers.
Full reference: Emery, J.L, Coleman, T., Sutton, S., Cooper, S., Leonardi-Bee, J., Jones, M., & Naughton F. | Uptake of Tailored Text Message Smoking Cessation Support in Pregnancy When Advertised on the Internet (MiQuit): Observational Study | J Med Internet Res |2018| Vol. 20 |4| e146| DOI: 10.2196/jmir.8525|PMID: 29674308
Related: University of East Anglia Online ads help pregnant smokers quit