Incorporating African American Veterans' Success Stories for Hypertension Management: Developing a Behavioral Support Texting Protocol

JMIR Res Protoc. 2021 Dec 1;10(12):e29423. doi: 10.2196/29423.


Background: Peer narratives engage listeners through personally relevant content and have been shown to promote lifestyle change and effective self-management among patients with hypertension. Incorporating key quotations from these stories into follow-up text messages is a novel way to continue the conversation, providing reinforcement of health behaviors in the patients' daily lives.

Objective: In our previous work, we developed and tested videos in which African American Veterans shared stories of challenges and success strategies related to hypertension self-management. This study aims to describe our process for developing a text-messaging protocol intended for use after viewing videos that incorporate the voices of these Veterans.

Methods: We used a multistep process, transforming video-recorded story excerpts from 5 Veterans into 160-character texts. We then integrated these into comprehensive 6-month texting protocols. We began with an iterative review of story transcripts to identify vernacular features and key self-management concepts emphasized by each storyteller. We worked with 2 Veteran consultants who guided our narrative text message development in substantive ways, as we sought to craft culturally sensitive content for texts. Informed by Veteran input on timing and integration, supplementary educational and 2-way interactive assessment text messages were also developed.

Results: Within the Veterans Affairs texting system Annie, we programmed five 6-month text-messaging protocols that included cycles of 3 text message types: narrative messages, nonnarrative educational messages, and 2-way interactive messages assessing self-efficacy and behavior related to hypertension self-management. Each protocol corresponds to a single Veteran storyteller, allowing Veterans to choose the story that most resonates with their own life experiences.

Conclusions: We crafted a culturally sensitive text-messaging protocol using narrative content referenced in Veteran stories to support effective hypertension self-management. Integrating narrative content into a mobile health texting intervention provides a low-cost way to support longitudinal behavior change. A randomized trial is underway to test its impact on the lifestyle changes and blood pressure of African American Veterans.

Trial registration: NCT03970590;

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/29423.

Keywords: African American; hypertension; mobile phone; self-management; texting.

Associated data