Using sequential email messages to promote health behaviors: Evidence of feasibility and reach in a worksite sample

Patricia Durkin Franklin*, Paula F. Rosenbaum, Michael P. Carey, Michael F. Roizen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: US adults report suboptimal physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake. Innovative strategies to promote healthy behaviors are needed. Employee health promotion programs have been associated with reductions in health risks but are labor-intensive and costly to implement. Email and Web-based worksite programs have the potential to reach a broad adult population and to provide a cost-effective approach to employee wellness programming. Objective: To assess the feasibility of using sequential email messages to promote physical activity and increase fruit and vegetable intake among employed adults. Methods: Employees at one worksite of a large insurance company in New York State were invited to participate. Interested workers provided written consent. After completing a baseline survey, participants received daily emails, Monday through Friday, for 26 weeks. The emails provided (a) succinct strategies to encourage physical activity or increase fruit and vegetable intake and (b) links to detailed Web-based information and tools. Program reach was assessed by the number of emails opened, measures of sustained participation over 6 months, and the number of health-related Web-links clicked. Results: Of 960 employees, 388 (40%) consented to participate; of these, 345 (89%) completed the baseline health survey. After 6 months, 70% of the 345 participants had opened 50% or more of the daily emails. In addition, 75% of participants continued to open at least one email a week through week 26 of the study. Email opening rates did not vary by gender, age, income, education, ethnicity, or baseline health behavior. Conclusions: The rate of enrollment and sustained participation document the feasibility, broad reach, employee acceptance, and potential value of using electronic communications for health promotion in the workplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12P
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006


  • Employee wellness
  • Health promotion
  • Information technology in health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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