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3 posts from March 2016


AT&T Launches Text-to-Donate Service for Flint Water Crisis



AT&T recently announced a new text-to-give campaign benefiting the children of the Flint water crisis. The water crisis occurred when the state of Michigan switched Flint's water source from Detroit's system to the Flint River to reduce costs. Residents subsequently ingested high amounts of lead, with many claiming developmental disabilities in their children. Seven families have filed a class-action lawsuit against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. The lawsuit names several other city and state officials. 


The Long Wait

According to sources, water from Flint taps “smelled and tasted strange,” though residents had to wait over a year for testing. In their lawsuit, residents cite the Safe Drinking Water Act, a federal law that outlines rules and regulations concerning safe drinking water all over the country. The law was put in place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Democratic presidential nominees Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both spoken out about the Flint water crisis, though Republican nominees have mostly stayed mute on the issue. President Obama approved federal funding for Flint earlier this year.

The class-action suit was filed on behalf of Flint’s tens of thousands of residents, who claim their children are suffering from health issues such as seizures, language problems, weight loss, stunted growth, anemia, headaches, abdominal pain, learning problems, mental and emotional stress, and more. Other issues stemming from the water crisis include property damage, water service line destruction, medical/educational/rehabilitation expenses, loss of income and earning capacity, and devaluation of property damages. 

The suit was filed by attorneys Hunter Shkolnik and Adam Slater, who say Governor Snyder and his associates acted in a negligent, reckless manner, as they were aware of the problem in 2014 but did nothing about it. Complaints concerning strange illnesses and rashes began in 2015.


Simply Sending a Text

Helping residents of Flint is as simple as sending a text message. Those who wish to donate can text ‘FLINT’ to 27722 to make a $10 donation to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. Donations are added to the sender’s monthly wireless bill.  


A Large Contribution

In January of this year, AT&T donated $50,000 to the development fund. Kathi Horton, President of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, noted how grateful the community is to AT&T for its continued support. AT&T has also created a YourCause employee contribution page so their employees from all over the world can help families struggling in the wake of this crisis. 

Jim Murray, the President of AT&T Michigan, remarked that AT&T is committed to helping the families in Flint and acknowledged mobile technology for helping people stay connected. He said that the texting campaign went a step further by allowing people to help each other. 

Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley noted that the generosity of residents during the water crisis has been a “testament” to the character and resilience of families in the community and the state at large.  



Text Messaging as a Weight Loss Tool?



Is text messaging the next big weight loss tool? Very possibly. Research has clearly indicated people take better care of their health when they keep track of their eating and exercise habits, and text messaging can function as a modern-day food diary. Researchers at Duke University published a study on texting and weight loss in the online edition of the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2013, which found that tracking health and wellness through text not only saved people time, but potentially made staying with a diet and exercise plan more likely. 


More On the 2013 Study

Duke University researchers studied 50 obese women for six months, with 26 of the women utilizing daily texting as part of the school’s Shape Plan weight-loss intervention. The women lost nearly three pounds each. The other 24 women did not use text messages to help with their weight loss efforts, and gained an average of 2.5 pounds each. The average age of the participants was 38. 

Daily text messages revolved around tips, tailored recommendations such as “no sugary drinks,” and taking 10,000 steps per day, as well as feedback. Participants received text messages every morning from an automated system, such as "Please text yesterday's # of steps you walked, # of sugary drinks, and if you ate fast food." The automated system sent customized feedback based on what the participants replied, as well as a tip. 


The Benefits

Dori Steinberg, a post-doctoral obesity researcher in the Duke Obesity Prevention Program and the study’s lead author, remarked that text messaging offered a number of benefits with which other self-monitoring methods cannot compete. Such benefits include the fact that data is easily and quickly entered into a text message compared with other web-based diet and exercise diaries. This ability results in (almost) real-time tracking, portability convenience, and increased personalized feedback. 

Another benefit is the limited number of characters involved with text messaging, which reduces the “detail and cognitive load” traditionally associated with keeping track of exercise and diet. Previous research indicates that long-term health monitoring is lackluster due to time and labor, extensive numeracy and literacy skills, and general burden. 

Study participants noted that texting helped them reach their goals in part because it was so easy. 


More Studies

Other studies concerning text messaging as a weight loss tool came up with similar findings. One study published in the Computers, Informatics, and Nursing journal in 2013 found that participants who utilized text message services lost more weight than those who did not, with texts including motivational messages, healthy snack ideas, and other tips. As with the Duke University study, texting was an interactive process that required participants to text “yes” or “no” regarding whether or not they put the advice into practice. 

Another study looked at text messaging as an “intervention medium” for weight loss, and found that SMS is an informative, encouraging, easy-to-use, affordable tool for managing weight and overall health. The study called for more substantial, randomized trials to determine optimal use for text messaging as a weight loss tool, among other things. 

Will text messaging become synonymous with weight loss? It certainly looks that way...



Virgin Leads the Way with mTickets



In the UK, Richard Branson’s train operator has become the first franchised rail company to offer mobile tickets across all routes. So-called ‘m-tickets’ - which use a barcode presented on a mobile screen in order to grant passage - will be available for purchase on the Virgin Trains website and app.

The move will allow passengers to use mobile devices as both shopping portal and proof of purchase, streamlining the process - and saving tonnes of orange card to boot. Commuters can bid goodbye to lengthy lines at the ticket machine, and never have to worry about losing their proof of purchase again. It’s hoped that Virgin - so often a pioneer in new ways of doing business - will be the touchpaper for other train companies to follow suit.

After a successful pilot, m-tickets became available across all Virgin routes earlier this month. As of April, passengers will be able to buy mobile tickets on the website.

Commercial Director Graham Leech said the firm loves “innovating for our customers, which is why we were the first train company to introduce automatic delay repay and why we’re now the first franchised operator to bring in m-tickets.”

For regular rail users, such innovations are long overdue. Smart ticketing practices that use the full force of the mobile technology we all carry with us promise to improve train travel and cut down on unnecessary waste.