To fight the $13 billion spent annually on
tobacco marketing in the United States,
psychologists must redouble their efforts
to reach out to vulnerable groups, said
Dr. H. Westley Clark, the director of the
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at
the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
treatment for PTSD and other disorders, Hamlett-Berry said.
The VA has also increased smoking-cessation training for health
care providers, and will soon offer a free smartphone app to
help quitters stay on track.
Smartphone apps have the potential to engage many
difficult-to-reach populations, said Eric Augustson, PhD, a
behavioral science researcher at the National Cancer Institute.
Even homeless people increasingly have
access to smart phones, or at least phones
capable of receiving text messages, he said.
African-Americans and teens are frequent
texters, he said.
“Many of our most vulnerable
populations are skipping over computers
or laptops and using phones as the
primary way they interact with the
Internet,” he said.
That’s why the National Cancer
Institute created an app called Smokefree
TXT. Users set a quit date and the
program sends them reminder messages.
The program also checks in with
participants, asking them about their
cravings and moods and prompting them
to text back a response. The program then
shoots back a tip or encouraging words.
Since its launch in 2011, the app has
attracted more than 15,000 subscribers
and shown about a 13 percent success rate
— comparable with other, more labor-intensive treatments.
The program, with its versions
for young adults, teens and Spanish
speakers, demonstrates the potential of
adapting interventions for subgroups. But
researchers must go even further adapting
evidence-based interventions to needs of vunerable populations
— a practice that is “the rule, rather than the exception,” said
Felipe Gonzalez Castro, PhD, a psychology professor and
director of the health psychology program at the University of
Texas at El Paso. “You must make what you’re doing interesting
and connect with your audience, so they really believe this is
going to help them,” he said. n
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