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Professor Kathryn Greene and REAL Prevention Receive Grant for Phase II of “Interactive Technology for Media Literacy Drug Prevention in Community Groups”
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Professor Kathryn Greene and REAL Prevention Receive Grant for Phase II of “Interactive Technology for Media Literacy Drug Prevention in Community Groups”

The School of Communication and Information (SC&I), Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is proud to announce the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funding award for Phase II of the project “Interactive Technology for Media Literacy Drug Prevention in Community Groups.” Principal Investigators Michael L. Hecht, REAL Prevention, and Kathryn Greene, professor of Communication at SC&I, were awarded over $1.4 million by the National Institute of Health (NIH) for their research.

Greene and Co-Investigator Chirag Shah, associate professor of iSchool, and SC&I graduate Smita Banerjee (currently on faculty at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), along with their partners at REAL Prevention LLC and the University of Missouri are now working with 4-H organizations in five states to adapt a media literacy curriculum for use in 4-H clubs and further test it. The NJ 4-H, led by Rachel Lyons, has been integrally involved in developing, adapting, and pilot testing the REAL media intervention with REAL Prevention and SC&I’s Professor Greene.

An agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (SAMHSA) has given the face-to-face version of the REAL media curriculum, Youth Message Development (YMD), its highest rating – ‘Effective’ – for improving teenagers’ knowledge, attitudes and beliefs and intentions regarding substance use.

 Rutgers’ partner is REAL Prevention LLC, a company devoted to developing evidence-based curriculum and prevention programs promoting health education and preventing harmful behaviors that place individuals’ health at risk. The principals have diverse specialties in culture and narrative, families and youth across the developmental spectrum that results in a unique health message design process and the application of mixed methods research designs.  

The goals of the Phase II STTR (R42) are to evaluate the outcomes of REAL media, an interactive, self-paced, e-learning substance use prevention media literacy curriculum, and prepare it for marketing to community organizations, including our partner, 4-H. Substance use increases in frequency and risk through mid-adolescence, yet prevention interventions primarily target early use, are time intensive, and are implemented in a limited number of settings such as schools. Moreover, interventions often fail to address the media-saturated lives of youth despite research demonstrating the deleterious effects of advertising and entertainment media. This provides a market niche for the proposed project that addresses this curriculum gap through the innovative use of both technology and prevention science.

Guided by the Theory of Active Involvement, REAL media develops critical perspective taking about substance use decisions and confers resistance to pro-drug (e.g., alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, smokeless tobacco) messages through youth analysis of pro-drug media messages combined with interactive media manipulation and active involvement of youth participants in creating their own anti-ATOD prevention messages. These youth-created messages are then entered into an online contest via a social media proliferation strategy (i.e., youth recruit others to view their messages on social media, e.g., Facebook, YouTube, to win the contest) in which messages are diffused to the wider community. The curriculum demonstrated promising results when administered face-to-face during an NIH-funded pilot study, and the Phase I project demonstrated excellent usability and feasibility for online delivery through 4-H clubs.

During Phase II, the program will be finalized and researchers will conduct a group-randomized clinical trial among 4-H clubs in five states (NJ, OH, MD, PA, and WV). Clubs will be randomly assigned to use the curriculum or continue current practices with the option for delivery at the end of the study. 4-H members (ages 13-15) will complete a pretest, immediate posttest and follow-up posttests at 3 and 9 months to assess effects. Results will guide preparation of REAL media for the market. The flexibility of the brief, online format (four 15-25 minute levels plus a fifth message planning and production level) for youth in individual or group settings makes this ideal for both community and school implementation. Thus, REAL media is well-suited for rapid dissemination through our existing partners, 4-H, D.A.R.E., and Boys and Girls Clubs, as well as other potential community partners (e.g., YM/WCA, Boys and Girl Scouts).

For more information on this research and curriculum, please see the full article in Rutgers Today:


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