UT MD Anderson Brings Anti-Smoking Message to SE Texas At-risk Youths

Minnie Rogers Juvenile Justice Center Debuts Video Game Installation at Sept. 28 Ceremony

MD Anderson News Release 09/20/10

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is reaching out to southeast Texas via an interactive, arcade-style video game aimed at reducing tobacco use among at-risk teens and adolescents. Alexander V. Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Behavioral Science and director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program, will unveil a kiosk featuring HealthScare General Hospital at a 10 a.m. ceremony Sept. 28 hosted by the Jefferson County Juvenile Probation Department at the Minnie Rogers Juvenile Justice Center in Beaumont. The event marks MD Anderson's first community installation of the multimedia educational tool.

"We're honored to be placing the kiosk at the Minnie Rogers Juvenile Justice Center to educate teens and adolescents at high risk for tobacco use," says Prokhorov. "Through its partnerships with community leaders such as Regina Rogers and outreach efforts including IEA Inspire, Encourage, Achieve; Ben's Kids; and the Julie Rogers "Gift of Life" Program's Don't Smoke Your Life Away (DSYLA) initiative, the center is an outstanding example of how positive reinforcement can change lives for the better. We're confident this installation will further enhance these rehabilitation efforts and have a lasting impact on the health of these young people now and throughout their lives."

In 2004, Prokhorov received U.S. Department of Defense funding for Project TALK (Teens and Young Adults Acquiring Lung Cancer Knowledge) to create the theory-based video game, which stresses the health risks of smoking and offers strategies for smoking prevention and cessation. The game and kiosk were modified for use in the community with funds from the Texas Tobacco Settlement Fund. MD Anderson's decision to install the first of these kiosks at the southeast Texas facility reinforces ongoing efforts to bring about positive change in the lives of the 10- to 17-year-old youths detained at the center, says James M. Martin Jr., chief juvenile probation officer of the Jefferson County Juvenile Probation Department.

"This is an enormous opportunity to affect juveniles' decisions regarding tobacco use," says Martin, who directs casework, juvenile supervision and court services for the county probation department. "Having the video game onsite at the Minnie Rogers Juvenile Justice Center means we can use it literally every day of the year in an environment with almost no distractions. The Jefferson County Juvenile Probation Department is privileged to host the unveiling of the video kiosk and to be the premier site for youths to learn the consequences of tobacco use and ways to overcome this behavior."

HealthScare General Hospital uses a hospital metaphor in which players "travel" to different "rooms" to learn about the dangers of tobacco use. The software assesses the player's smoking status, nicotine dependence and other smoking-related characteristics and provides multiple educational tracks tailored to these characteristics, including readiness to change smoking behavior, level of addiction, ethnic background and gender. The game emphasizes the causes of lung cancer and the role smoking plays in its development and incorporates strategies for smoking prevention.

The game was tested with high school students at two alternative schools in the Houston area. After playing the game, 94 percent reported that the information increased their knowledge about smoking effects, and 82 percent reported that they were inspired to quit - or never to start. Among students who identified themselves at smokers, 53 percent reported they had quit smoking six months after first playing the game.

During his tenure at MD Anderson, Prokhorov has established a strong record of state- and federally funded research projects and has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. His work focuses on creating and testing innovative tobacco prevention and cessation programs for high-risk teens and young adults. His interactive multimedia website ASPIRE (A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience) has reached thousands of young users in Texas, nationally and internationally. He also develops programs aimed at increasing awareness of the tobacco risks among the general public and enhancing smoking cessation counseling skills among health care providers in Texas and beyond. Prokhorov is a much sought-after speaker for national and international conferences and seminars aimed at facilitating tobacco control and cancer prevention. He currently serves as the chair of the Tobacco Special Interest Group of the American Society for Preventative Oncology and is a member of the Julius Richmond Center of Excellence with the mission to protect children from exposure to secondhand smoke. 09/20/10