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Video Games Go to War Against Smoking, Stress

Conquest - Summer 2009

By Katrina Burton

Promoting the health of women and men serving in the armed forces is an important focus of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which recently awarded $3.7 million to Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., to develop an interactive video game geared to smoking cessation and stress management.

A professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Behavioral Science, Prokhorov has already designed and pilot-tested a similar videogame, “Escape With Your Life,” for troubled and economically disadvantaged youth.

“The DoD site visitors who reviewed this program suggested we apply for a larger DoD grant to design a similar educational product specifically for the U.S. Army, and we are honored to be selected again,” says Prokhorov, who is principal investigator on the grant, a partnership with the U.S. Army in Fort Hood, Texas.

Tobacco use among members of the U.S. Army is alarmingly high. Thirty-eight percent smoke cigarettes and 15% use smokeless tobacco.

The Army pilot program will feature animation, audio, video and interactive activities that provide facts about smoking and tobacco use, as well as a soldier-designed avatar that guides troops through the educational track. Some of the modules will include educating participants on resisting peer pressure, coping with withdrawal symptoms and preventing relapses.

“Tobacco is typically regarded by young people as a dull subject. The videogame-based education program is anything but boring. It provides a highly interactive, engaging and exciting experience,” Prokhorov says. “But what I like most is the opportunity to raise the awareness of tobacco hazards among Army service members, motivate them to quit and give them the skills necessary for adopting a tobacco-free lifestyle.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center