New Zealand government criticised after ‘degrading’ SMS campaign

The New Zealand government has shown how not to run an SMS campaign, as its recent effort has been labelled as ‘degrading’ by advocacy groups.

Young people receiving welfare are being sent text messages that remind them to brush their teeth on a regular basis. Paul Blair, a spokesman for the Rotorua People’s Union, says the campaign stereotypes young people on benefits and shows that the government thinks they are unable to do anything for themselves, reports

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health came up with the idea after seeing a rise in the number of grants for emergency dental care being awarded to young people out of work by Work and Income. Although the campaign lacks sensitivity, it has also been quite successful so far. Belinda Smith, of the Canterbury District Health Board, said it wanted to replicate the success seen off the back of smoking cessation SMS campaigns.

“When we started only 53 per cent reported they were brushing their teeth,” she stated. “By the end of the ten weeks that had risen to 73 per cent. Even better was that this success stretched across all the participants, and this wasn’t limited to any particular age, gender or ethnic group.”

She added that the campaign was easy to implement and has proven to be cost-effective. In fact, she believes that the text reminders could result in the amount of tax payer money spent on emergency dental care being reduced significantly, reports