The government is calling on strategic health authorities to suggest primary care trusts to test NHS Health Direct, a new interactive media service to help people improve their health.

Modelled on the telephone service NHS Direct, Health Direct, if successful, is set to become a national scheme that advises people on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle through the internet, text message and television.

It is hoped the early adopter site will be in one of the 62 spearhead PCTs tackling health inequalities in the most deprived areas. It should also neighbour an area with a wider social mix, such as a rural setting.

'We are ideally looking for a spearhead PCT with a larger hinterland representative of middle England, said NHS Health Direct project director Bob Gann .

Last September HSJ reported that four in five of the PCTs were falling behind on health inequality targets. Mr Gann said it will complement and support what the spearhead PCTs are doing on health inequalities.

'Spearhead PCTs are fast-tracking a number of initiatives and NHS Health Direct will direct the public to these schemes, such as how to access health trainers,' he said.

Focused on physical activity, diet and alcohol, the six-month pilot will feature services such as web-based health MoTs and information on health improvement services through digital Freeview and satellite TV and text messages. The scheme will be expanded to include smoking, sexual health and mental health for national implementation expected in 2008-09.

The pilot site will be evaluated by testing how well the service has increased people's knowledge of health.

'We are pretty confident we can measure increased awareness. But the proof will be whether GPs in deprived areas tell us it is making a difference,' said Mr Gann.

PCTs will have the costs of running the service met by the Department of Health. Funding is currently being negotiated.

The deadline for applications is 9 February.

For further information, contact Bob Gann at bob.gann@online.nhsdirect.nhs.uk