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A Mobile Phone–Based Life-Skills Training Program for Substance Use Prevention Among Adolescents: Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial


Haug, Severin; Paz Castro, Raquel; Wenger, Andreas; Schaub, Michael P (2021). A Mobile Phone–Based Life-Skills Training Program for Substance Use Prevention Among Adolescents: Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 9(7):e26951.

Abstract

Background: Life skills are abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. Life-skills training programs conducted within the school curriculum are effective in preventing the onset and escalation of substance use among adolescents. However, their dissemination is impeded due to their large resource requirements. Life-skills training provided via mobile phones may provide a more economic and scalable approach.

Objective: The goal of this study was to test the appropriateness (ie, acceptance, use, and evaluation) and short-term efficacy of a mobile phone–based life-skills training program to prevent substance use among adolescents within a controlled trial.

Methods: The study design was a two-arm, parallel-group, cluster-randomized controlled trial with assessments at baseline and follow-up assessments after 6 and 18 months. This report includes outcomes measured up to the 6-month follow-up. The efficacy of the intervention was tested in comparison to an assessment-only control group. The automated intervention program SmartCoach included online feedback and individually tailored text messages provided over 22 weeks. The contents were based on social cognitive theory and addressed self-management skills, social skills, and substance use resistance skills. Linear mixed models and generalized linear mixed models, as well as logistic or linear regressions, were used to investigate changes between baseline and 6-month follow-up in the following outcomes: 30-day prevalence rates of problem drinking, tobacco use, and cannabis use as well as quantity of alcohol use, quantity of cigarettes smoked, cannabis use days, perceived stress, well-being, and social skills.

Results: A total of 1759 students from 89 Swiss secondary and upper secondary school classes were invited to participate in the study. Of these, 1473 (83.7%) students participated in the study; the mean age was 15.4 years (SD 1.0) and 55.2% (813/1473) were female. Follow-up assessments at 6 months were completed by 1233 (83.7%) study participants. On average, program participants responded to half (23.6 out of 50) of the prompted activities. Program evaluations underlined its appropriateness for the target group of secondary school students, with the majority rating the program as helpful and individually tailored. The results concerning the initial effectiveness of this program based on 6-month follow-up data are promising, with three of nine outcomes of the intention-to-treat analyses showing beneficial developments of statistical significance (ie, quantity of alcohol use, quantity of tobacco use, and perceived stress; P<.05) and another three outcomes (ie, problem drinking prevalence, cannabis use days, and social skills) showing beneficial developments of borderline significance (P<.10).

Conclusions: The results showed good acceptance of this intervention program that could be easily and economically implemented in school classes. Initial results on program efficacy indicate that it might be effective in both preventing or reducing substance use and fostering life skills; however, data from the final 18-month follow-up assessments will be more conclusive.

Trial Registration: ISRCTN Registry ISRCTN41347061; https://doi.org/10.1186/ISRCTN41347061

Abstract

Background: Life skills are abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. Life-skills training programs conducted within the school curriculum are effective in preventing the onset and escalation of substance use among adolescents. However, their dissemination is impeded due to their large resource requirements. Life-skills training provided via mobile phones may provide a more economic and scalable approach.

Objective: The goal of this study was to test the appropriateness (ie, acceptance, use, and evaluation) and short-term efficacy of a mobile phone–based life-skills training program to prevent substance use among adolescents within a controlled trial.

Methods: The study design was a two-arm, parallel-group, cluster-randomized controlled trial with assessments at baseline and follow-up assessments after 6 and 18 months. This report includes outcomes measured up to the 6-month follow-up. The efficacy of the intervention was tested in comparison to an assessment-only control group. The automated intervention program SmartCoach included online feedback and individually tailored text messages provided over 22 weeks. The contents were based on social cognitive theory and addressed self-management skills, social skills, and substance use resistance skills. Linear mixed models and generalized linear mixed models, as well as logistic or linear regressions, were used to investigate changes between baseline and 6-month follow-up in the following outcomes: 30-day prevalence rates of problem drinking, tobacco use, and cannabis use as well as quantity of alcohol use, quantity of cigarettes smoked, cannabis use days, perceived stress, well-being, and social skills.

Results: A total of 1759 students from 89 Swiss secondary and upper secondary school classes were invited to participate in the study. Of these, 1473 (83.7%) students participated in the study; the mean age was 15.4 years (SD 1.0) and 55.2% (813/1473) were female. Follow-up assessments at 6 months were completed by 1233 (83.7%) study participants. On average, program participants responded to half (23.6 out of 50) of the prompted activities. Program evaluations underlined its appropriateness for the target group of secondary school students, with the majority rating the program as helpful and individually tailored. The results concerning the initial effectiveness of this program based on 6-month follow-up data are promising, with three of nine outcomes of the intention-to-treat analyses showing beneficial developments of statistical significance (ie, quantity of alcohol use, quantity of tobacco use, and perceived stress; P<.05) and another three outcomes (ie, problem drinking prevalence, cannabis use days, and social skills) showing beneficial developments of borderline significance (P<.10).

Conclusions: The results showed good acceptance of this intervention program that could be easily and economically implemented in school classes. Initial results on program efficacy indicate that it might be effective in both preventing or reducing substance use and fostering life skills; however, data from the final 18-month follow-up assessments will be more conclusive.

Trial Registration: ISRCTN Registry ISRCTN41347061; https://doi.org/10.1186/ISRCTN41347061

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:13 July 2021
Deposited On:14 Jul 2021 13:47
Last Modified:14 Jul 2021 13:58
Publisher:JMIR Publications
ISSN:2291-5222
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.2196/26951
PubMed ID:34255703

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