November 1998

Grant Results

SUMMARY

Between 1996 and 1997, Join Together, an organization at Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, developed the first national tobacco control World Wide Web site.

At the time the project was conceived, there was little coordination of information on the Internet among the nation's tobacco prevention and control community. Additionally, no Web site on tobacco issues existed for the general public.

The new site targeted three primary audiences:

  • Tobacco control professionals.
  • Teens.
  • Adult smokers.

Key Results

  • Join Together created QuitNet, the first national tobacco control Web site. The site built a "virtual community" of smokers and other tobacco users who could encourage each other in quitting smoking. At the end of the grant, there were more than 4,000 registered users on the Web site.
  • QuitNet has become a key distribution point for news and information on tobacco control issues. More than 1,000 news summaries and 300 technical documents relating to tobacco control, smoking cessation, and nicotine addiction are distributed monthly around the world through QuitNet. The Web site is accessible to people in over 100 countries.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $50,000 between April 1996 and March 1997.

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THE PROJECT

This project addressed the lack of centralized information on tobacco use for either professionals or consumers. The project was designed to provide support for Join Together, an organization at Boston University's School of Public Health, to develop the first national tobacco control World Wide Web site, taking advantage of the emergence of the Internet as a popular means of finding information.

Join Together has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to serve as a resource for communities fighting substance abuse problems (ID#s 018713, 019307, and 026942). When this project began, Join Together had already developed a successful substance abuse Web site.

The project was designed to address three primary populations: tobacco prevention and control professionals, teens, and adult tobacco users. For the professionals, the Web site would serve as a central location for publishing and locating information on tobacco control. The youth part of the site would be a "virtual place" for interested teens to seek out youth-targeted information. The project planned to create links to America Online, Prodigy, and other on-line services to enable youth who are browsing these services to access the site and, in addition, to provide on-line counseling and quitting advice to smokers.

Other Funding

The Massachusetts Tobacco Prevention and Control Program contributed an additional $54,000 to this project.

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RESULTS

  • Join Together created QuitNet, the first national tobacco control Web site. The site built a "virtual community" of smokers and other tobacco users who could encourage each other in quitting smoking. One message from one QuitNet user to another stated in part: "Hi Gary. There is more than one way to treat an addiction. A few people find it easier to do it on their own, and you seem to be one of these people. I find it very helpful to check in once in the morning and once in the evening, even if I don't always post a message…. For the past four weeks I have met with a group of people who are struggling to quit smoking… the people who are sticking with this QuitNet forum are the people who are successful, and I need to hear their success stories." According to Join Together, as participants became familiar with the relevant issues and comfortable with their own abstinence from tobacco, they took on the role of the facilitators, bringing newcomers into the discussion and steering them to available on-line resources. At the end of the grant, there were more than 4,000 registered users on the Web site. As of November 1998, there were over 18,000 registered users. Use grew from under 500 page views a day at the beginning of the project to more than 5,000 a day by the close.
  • QuitNet has become a key distribution point for news and information on tobacco control issues. More than 1,000 news summaries and 300 technical documents relating to tobacco control, smoking cessation, and nicotine addiction are distributed monthly around the world through QuitNet. The Web site is accessible to people in over 100 countries. One million pages have been downloaded. There are 20,000 registered users and 5,000 users a day. The Massachusetts branch of the American Cancer Society makes available a database of local cessation programs on the QuitNet site.

Limitations

An initial shortfall of the QuitNet project was a promotional strategy that was only moderately successful in attracting consumer attention. This was mostly due to Join Together's lack of experience in promoting direct care initiatives. The main method of promoting QuitNet was similar to the approach taken with Join Together Online — distributing descriptive flyers, thousands of which were included in Join Together mailings and distributed through conferences, presentations, and meetings. When that approach generated little interest, as shown by visits to the site, the staff began targeting users on the Internet directly.

The two most successful promotions were the inclusion of QuitNet's Web site in Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program media spots aired during a New Year's media campaign (1996–1997), and an interview about the site on a national cable television show. Those efforts generated more new users than all previous efforts combined.

Join Together estimates that a large percentage of registered users may have quit smoking. The strength of these estimates is limited, however, by the need to continue to refine the new Web site and by the lack of a formal evaluation.

Communications

QuitNet was selected as the "Site of the Week" by several health and addiction-related Web sites, and was covered by two major search engines: Excite and Yahoo. It was profiled on national television and in The Boston Globe. The site was the subject of an on-line article by Andrew Weil, M.D., author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health: a Proven Program for Taking Full Advantage of Your Body's Natural Healing Power and Ask Dr. Weil, on the day of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout.

QuitNet was named a finalist in an award program sponsored by the National Information Infrastructure, an organization created by Vice President Al Gore to further Internet development. QuitNet was also OncoLink Editor's Choice for top provider of cancer-related information over the Internet. (OncoLink is sponsored by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to provide information about oncology over the Web.)

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AFTER THE GRANT

The Massachusetts Research Institute gave $25,000 towards support of QuitNet during its second year. Project staff hope to conduct an evaluation of QuitNet to determine its clinical efficacy and identify ways to improve it. They have not yet found the funds or the person to carry out an evaluation.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Development of a National Tobacco Control World Wide Web Site

Grantee

Boston University School of Public Health (Boston,  MA)

  • Amount: $ 50,000
    Dates: April 1996 to March 1997
    ID#:  028367

Contact

David L. Rosenbloom, Ph.D.
(617) 437-1500
david@jointogether.org

Web Site

http://www.quitnet.com

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

World Wide Web Sites

www.quitnet.com. Provides information about tobacco control issues and help for smokers interested in quitting. Boston, Mass.: Join Together, Boston University School of Public Health. 1996; average 5,000 a day. 20,000 registered users; 1 million pages have been downloaded.

Print Coverage

"Quit-smoking Help: Net Site Offers Personalized Advice," in The Boston Globe, December 30, 1996.

QuitNet was awarded a perfect score from The Net Magazine.

Television Coverage

"The Web Television Show," QuitNet, CNET, Week of April 7, 1997.

World Wide Web Coverage

Achoo.com/features, no longer available. Provided health care information on the Web. Mississauga, Ontario, Canada: MNI systems Corporation. QuitNet. Site of the Week, September 9–15, 1996.

www.oncolink.com provides multimedia resource information about oncology. Philadelphia, Pa.: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. QuitNet, Editor's Choice Award for top provider of cancer-related information over the Internet, October 1996.

www.zdnet.com. Provides information about high-technology. Ziff-Davis. QuitNet, Best of the Web, March 1997.

www.yahoo.com. Search engine for the Internet. QuitNet was one of four sites covered in "Touched by The Net," March 1997.

www.care.com. Web site for mothers. DoubleClick Network. Founded 1995. QuitNet, Site of the Day, April 4, 1997.

www.dowjones.com. Rates and reviews business-related sites. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. QuitNet, Select Site, August 1, 1997.

healthandfitness.sympatico.msn.ca/Home. QuitNet, HealthyWay Best of the Web Award, February 6, 1998.

cmhc.com/guide/smoking.htm, no longer available. Provided links to mental health resources on the Internet. Columbus, Ohio: Mental Health Net. Founded October 1995. QuitNet, Four-Star Rating and Reader's Choice, July 6, 1998.

excite.com. Search engine for the World Wide Web. Redwood City, Calif.: Excite, Inc. Founded October 1995. QuitNet, Top Ten Self-Help Sites, Week of August 31, 1998.

www.oxygen.com/pregnancycalendar. Provides information on medicine, fitness, sports, diet, and sexuality. San Francisco, Calif.: America Online and Time Inc. QuitNet, Hot Link, 1998.

Global Information Infrastructure Award for best Internet sites. QuitNet, GII Semi-Finalist, 1998.

bofw.com, no longer available. Guide to the Best Web Sites. Los Angeles, Calif.: Luckman Interactions, Inc.

QuitNet also was noted in the following sites: HomePC, as "Best of the Web," and Health Explorer, as "Site of the Week."

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Report prepared by: Susan Parker
Reviewed by: Janet Heroux
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer : Michael P. Beachler

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