WHISPER or SHOUT study: protocol of a cluster-randomised controlled trial assessing mHealth sexual reproductive health and nutrition interventions among female sex workers in Mombasa, Kenya
Ampt, Frances H
Megan, S C Lim
Agius, Paul A
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Introduction New interventions are required to reduce unintended pregnancies among female sex workers (FSWs) in low- and middle-income countries and to improve their nutritional health. Given sex workers’ high mobile phone usage, repeated exposure to short messaging service (SMS) messages could address individual and interpersonal barriers to contraceptive uptake and better nutrition. Methods In this two-arm cluster randomised trial, each arm constitutes an equal-attention control group for the other. SMS messages were developed systematically, participatory and theory-driven and cover either sexual and reproductive health (WHISPER) or nutrition (SHOUT). Messages are sent to participants 2–3 times/week for 12 months and include fact-based and motivational content as well as role model stories. Participants can send reply texts to obtain additional information. Sex work venues (clusters) in Mombasa, Kenya, were randomly sampled with a probability proportionate to venue size. Up to 10 women were recruited from each venue to enrol 860 women. FSWs aged 16–35 years, who owned a mobile phone and were not pregnant at enrolment were eligible. Structured questionnaires, pregnancy tests, HIV and syphilis rapid tests and full blood counts were performed at enrolment, with subsequent visits at 6 and 12 months. Analysis The primary outcomes of WHISPER and SHOUT are unintended pregnancy incidence and prevalence of anaemia at 12 months, respectively. Each will be compared between study groups using discrete-time survival analysis. Potential limitations Contamination may occur if participants discuss their intervention with those in the other trial arm. This is mitigated by cluster recruitment and only sampling a small proportion of sex work venues from the sampling frame. Conclusions The design allows for the simultaneous testing of two independent mHealth interventions for which messaging frequency and study procedures are identical. This trial may guide future mHealth initiatives and provide methodological insights into use of reciprocal control groups.
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