Primary versus secondary prevention messages: College students' perceptions of effectiveness by marijuana user status

J Am Coll Health. 2019 Nov-Dec;67(8):743-752. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2018.1506790. Epub 2018 Sep 21.


Objective: With medical and recreational marijuana legislation expanding throughout the country, the need to educate high-risk populations is evident. The purpose of this study was to assess college students' perceptions of health communication messages comparing primary and secondary prevention messages concerning marijuana. Participants: Participants (n = 487) included college students, ages 18-25, enrolled in a Midwestern University. Methods: Participants assessed messages based on likeability, creativity, believability, persuasiveness, relevance, and usefulness using an online questionnaire that also included open-end comments. Results: Rasch analyses indicate that nonmarijuana users rated primary prevention messages higher than secondary prevention messages, whereas marijuana users ranked secondary prevention messages more favorably than primary prevention messages. Conclusion: Interventions designed to address marijuana use among college students may be more effective if tailored toward user status. Specifically, primary prevention materials should be designed for abstainers, while secondary prevention messages that focus on harm reduction strategies should be used with marijuana users.

Keywords: Health communication; college students; intervention; marijuana; primary prevention; secondary prevention.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Promotion / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / prevention & control*
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Marijuana Use / psychology*
  • Midwestern United States
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Primary Prevention / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Secondary Prevention / methods
  • Secondary Prevention / statistics & numerical data*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult