Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1186/s12889-023-16388-y; PMCID: PMC10416414


The prevalence of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, is rising in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Health behavior change (HBC) interventions such as the widely used Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) are effective at reducing chronic disease risk, but have not been adapted for LMICs. Leveraging mobile health (mHealth) technology such as text messaging (SMS) to enhance reach and participant engagement with these interventions has great promise, yet we lack evidence-informed approaches to guide the integration of SMS specifically to support HBC interventions in LMIC contexts. To address this gap, we integrated guidance from the mHealth literature with expertise and first-hand experience to establish specific development steps for building and implementing SMS systems to support HBC programming in LMICs. Specifically, we provide real-world examples of each development step by describing our experience in designing and delivering an SMS system to support a culturally-adapted DPP designed for delivery in South Africa. We outline eight key SMS development steps, including: 1) determining if SMS is appropriate; 2) developing system architecture and programming; 3) developing theory-based messages; 4) developing SMS technology; 5) addressing international SMS delivery; 6) testing; 7) system training and technical support; and 8) cost considerations. We discuss lessons learned and extractable principles that may be of use to other mHealth and HBC researchers working in similar LMIC contexts.Trial registration, NCT03342274 . Registered 10 November 2017.

Journal Title

BMC public health [electronic resource]





First Page


Last Page



Community health worker; Diabetes prevention program; Global health; Health behavior change; Implementation; LMIC; SMS; Text messaging; mHealth


Grant support

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Publisher's Link: