keepin’ it REAL: Designing Interventions that Change Behavior…and Lives

September 29, 2016, 2:00pm – 3:00pm EDT
Michael Hecht, Ph.D.
Michael L. Hecht, Ph.D.

Michael L. Hecht, Ph.D.

keepin’ it REAL: Designing interventions that change behavior…and lives

Michael L. Hecht, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
The Pennsylvania State University
President of REAL Prevention LLC


This webinar discusses the process of taking evidence-based practices to scale through a collaborative process that (1) includes the target audience in conceptualization and formative research that guides the design and delivery of the program, and (2) engages partners (e.g., schools, community organizations) who are key to program implementation and dissemination. Using this model of community engagement, Dr. Hecht and his business partner, Dr. Michelle Miller-Day turned keepin’ it REAL from a small research grant into one of the most widely disseminated youth drug prevention programs in the world. While this was accomplished through trial and error, several generalizable principles emerged that are the focus of this webinar. We learned that the design of interventions was not linear and could not go on without simultaneously considering implementation and dissemination. Thus the audience (e.g., youth), the venue (e.g., the school) and the implementer (e.g., teacher, D.A.R.E. officer) must all be part of the process. This requires a careful consideration of and collaboration with the various constituencies from the start of the development process and continuing through dissemination. The webinar uses the example of how keepin’ it REAL became the basis for a profitable business venture, REAL Prevention LLC, to talk about moving from a “build it and they will come” approach to prevention to one that uses a model of community engagement. This includes discussion of the process of creating and scaling up an intervention including the challenges encountered along the way as well as the barriers to dissemination and implementation. The talk also covers strategies for other researchers interested in real-world, large-scale application that REAL Prevention has discovered during collaborations with the D.A.R.E. America, 4-H, Planned Parenthood, the Nemours Foundation, and others.



Dr. Michael Hecht is interested in the theory and practice of health, intercultural, and interpersonal communication. His work has produced new theoretical approaches, such as the Communication Theory of Identity and the Principal of Cultural Grounding. He has also been involved in many different community-based research programs and collaborations on drug abuse intervention, crime prevention, and mental health support. Dr. Hecht has taught courses on interpersonal communication, interpersonal communication theory, and nonverbal communication. He has won numerous awards, including the Gerald R. Philips Award for Distinguished Applied Communication Scholarship, two Distinguished Scholarship Awards for the International and Intercultural Division of the National Communication Association, and the Article of the Year Award for SIETAR.