Judith S. Gordon, PhD, a University of Arizona College of Nursing professor, and colleagues in Oregon have been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to enhance an evidence-based tobacco-prevention program for fifth and sixth graders.
The first version of the program – which is called Click City: Tobacco – was a huge success among students, teachers and parents, who enjoyed the fun, game-based delivery, but also appreciated its effectiveness. The program was found to reduce young people's intention to smoke cigarettes in the future. However, the program focused mostly on preventing use of conventional cigarettes.
Since the launch of Click City: Tobacco, use of e-cigarettes among youth has surpassed that of regular cigarettes. Studies have shown that youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to take up smoking regular cigarettes, thus setting themselves up for a lifetime of health problems.
"The e-cigarette phenomenon has increased dramatically since we originally developed this program. Now, kids are much more likely to use e-cigarettes than they are to use traditional cigarettes," Dr. Gordon said. "We also need to reprogram Click City: Tobacco so that it works on multiple devices that didn't exist when we first designed it."
Thanks to a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant, principal investigators Dr. Gordon and Judy A. Andrews, PhD, of Oregon Research Behavioral Intervention Strategies, will update the online program to address the hazards of e-cigarettes and other types of vaporized products. Drs. Gordon and Andrews will test the updated program with students in Arizona and Oregon.
“Our goal is to create an effective program that can be used in classrooms across the country to meet their health curriculum requirements and reduce the use of tobacco and vaping products." ~ Judith S. Gordon PhD
The updates to program content are designed to inform students of the risk factors from e-cigarettes, which researchers hope will lead to more critical perceptions of the devices.
"Now, kids think there's no risk in using e-cigarettes, so we want to make sure they understand the dangers involved, not only today but in the future. We want to teach them what e-cigarettes are and change their perceptions of the devices. For example, they don't even know there's such a thing as secondhand vapor," Dr. Gordon said.
The program also will use a methodical, analytical approach to create and test new components. While other programs offer a curriculum comprised of various components that have not fully been tested before dissemination, Drs. Gordon's and Andrews' research team painstakingly will test each program element before implementation.
"Our approach is based on optimized designs where we develop each component and then test it individually to make sure it is effective before it is included in the final program," Dr. Gordon said.
Also, because the program is completely self-contained and delivered online, setting students up with the program is all that teachers need to do. "Our program is 'plug and play,'" Dr. Gordon said. "The intervention is especially effective because it's delivered the same way every single time. It also generates reports, so teachers can monitor student progress and provide optional classroom activities and parent newsletters."
"Click City: Tobacco is a model for how to employ new technology in an engaging way to teach youth about the dangers of tobacco use and other health issues, and positively influence their choices," said UA President Robert C. Robbins, MD. "Dr. Gordon's work is a prime example of the University of Arizona College of Nursing's innovative and successful approaches to health and wellness education. The positive impact will benefit Arizonans and extend well beyond our state's borders."
The original Click City: Tobacco program has been used in schools throughout Oregon, and several other states have expressed interest in using the new program once it becomes available.
"Our goal is to create an effective program that can be used in classrooms across the country to meet their health curriculum requirements and reduce the use of all types of tobacco and vaping products," Dr. Gordon said.