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This process evaluation aimed to understand factors affecting the implementation of a government-sponsored short message service (SMS) programme for delivering nutrition information to rural populations, including message access, acceptability and putting messages into action.
The study was nested within a larger randomised controlled trial. Cross-sectional data collection included structured surveys and in-depth interviews. Data were analysed for key trends and themes using Stata and ATLAS.ti software.
The study took place in Tanzania’s Mtwara region.
Surveys were conducted with 205 women and 93 men already enrolled in the randomised controlled trial. A sub-set of 30 women and 14 men participated in the in-depth interviews.
Among women relying on a spouse’s phone, sharing arrangements impeded regular SMS access; men were commonly away from home, forgot to share SMS or did not share them in women’s preferred way. Phone-owning women faced challenges related to charging their phones and defective handsets. Once SMS were delivered, most participants viewed them as trustworthy and comprehensible. However, economic conditions limited the feasibility of applying certain recommendations, such as feeding meat to toddlers. A sub-set of participants concurrently enrolled in an interpersonal counselling (IPC) intervention indicated that the SMS provided reminders of lessons learned during the IPC; yet, the SMS did not help participants contextualise information and overcome the challenges of putting that information into practice.
The challenges to accessing and implementing SMS services highlighted here suggest that such platforms may work well as one component of a comprehensive nutrition intervention, yet not as an isolated effort.
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