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Tuesday, April 12 • 11:55am - 12:25pm
Using chatbots and behavioral change coding to help people quit smoking during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has traditionally positioned itself as a source of reliable, credible information targeting governments, public health workers and scientists, policy makers and international partners implementing health programmes. At the start of 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic saw people all over the globe turn to the WHO for official health information and advice. 

In response, the World Health Organization (WHO) partnered with Praekelt.org to launch WHO HealthAlert, a WhatsApp chatbot providing people on the ground (currently in more than 200 countries) with reliable, timely information and tools to inspire behaviour change in users and empower individuals to take care of their own health. This involved providing necessary resources on COVID-19 and other health concerns exacerbated by the pandemic. This influenced the development of several behavioural change tools focusing on various areas of healthcare, such as smoking cessation, stress management and addressing misinformation.

The Smoking Cessation program was created by the WHO to encourage people to quit smoking tobacco. With COVID-19 affecting the respiratory tract, smokers risk suffering from more severe cases of COVID-19 or even death. There is extensive evidence that mobile phone-based support for smoking cessation is effective. Adapted from an existing SMS-based program, the Quit Challenge is a 42-day global behavioural change program to encourage smokers to quit smoking once and for all. It was influenced by research on addictive behaviours that informed a taxonomy of behaviour change techniques used in individual behavioural support for smoking cessation (Mitchie et al).

The Quit Challenge is designed to deliver short, engaging messages every day at predetermined times. Initially launched in English only, the program is now available in the six United Nations languages (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish). All messaging and content was developed in plain language and evaluated for clarity and comprehension, allowing the service to address common challenges in this domain with regards to inclusivity, diversity and equity. 

Evidence from the program shows that the service is helping thousands of users quit their smoking habits once and for all. The behavioural techniques used to create the Quit Challenge will aid in the development of more effective digital services moving forward. Our hope is that our learnings can be adapted and applied across a broader spectrum of health domains.

avatar for Dustin DiTommaso

Dustin DiTommaso

Senior Vice President, Behavior Change Design, Mad*Pow
A designer and researcher, Dustin’s work integrates the study and application of behavioral science and human-centered design to the development of digital interventions that change real-world behaviors.In 2009, he founded the behavior change design practice at Mad*Pow where he... Read More →

avatar for Emma van Damme

Emma van Damme

Service Designer, Praekelt.org
Emma van Damme is a passionate, empathetic, and spirited Service Designer at Praekelt.org. She is a seasoned conceptual thinker, and UI / UX designer, with an advanced set of execution skills within the digital design discipline. Emma is an advocate for considered user experiences... Read More →

Tuesday April 12, 2022 11:55am - 12:25pm EDT
Room 2