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ASPIRE Internet Site Kicking Butt

Network - Summer 2008

By Robin Davidson

What better way to mark the 13th annual National Kick Butts Day than to announce plans to expand use of M. D. Anderson’s ASPIRE Internet site to students nationwide through collaborations with state education and health agencies.

ASPIRE — A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience — is an evidence-based, multimedia tobacco prevention and cessation Internet site for middle and high school kids. The site integrates interactive video game-like components, customized messages, graphics, animation and streaming video to capture the interest of both non-smoking and smoking teens.

“Nearly 4,000 youth under the age of 18 start smoking daily,” says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Behavioral Science. “We created ASPIRE because ‘Just Say No’ wasn’t good enough anymore.”

Through situations teens readily relate to — dating, stress from school and sports — ASPIRE addresses the long-term and short-term consequences of tobacco use, including changes in physical appearance and physiological processes. The Internet site speaks to teenagers on their terms and emphasizes that addiction is dependence, appealing to their desire to be independent and to make decisions on their own, Prokhorov says.

Students who used ASPIRE reported reduced numbers of cigarettes smoked, stronger anti-smoking beliefs and lower temptations to smoke. To date, the ASPIRE site has had more than 30,000 visitors from 66 countries.

An initial e-campaign targeting 97 school districts in 32 states in North America was launched in late 2007. From those efforts, the Arkansas Department of Health, the Kentucky Cancer Program and the North Carolina Department of Public Health all have plans under way to use ASPIRE in schools throughout their states. A similar partnership with the Houston Independent School District that uses ASPIRE to complement anti-smoking lesson plans in physical education and health classes will serve as a model for future collaborations.

“This marks the first concerted effort to provide a national platform in which ASPIRE can reach our nation’s teens,” says Kathy Hill, communications specialist in the Department of Behavioral Science, who is leading the program’s national rollout. “The response we received from this first push was very promising, and we look forward to continuing discussions with several states that expressed interest in adopting ASPIRE into their schools’ curriculums.”

ASPIRE is free to school districts, state health departments, teachers and parents nationwide. Anyone can access the program by visiting the ASPIRE site. ASPIRE is funded by the National Cancer Institute and the George and Barbara Bush Endowment for Innovative Cancer Research.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center