Is digitization and gamification of prevention programs the way forward?
COVID-19 pandemic drew attention to higher education students as a risk group for psychological vulnerability, highlighting the need for a preventive response addressing addictive behaviours as well as the promotion of mental health. Given that both the general and specific objectives of the Riscos & Desafios (R&D) Program matched the identified needs, it became urgent to consider different formats of implementation adapted to pandemic contingencies: online, mixed and face-to-face.
The adaptation was supported by a review of literature about online interventions in health and psychology. It was carried out through intensive monitoring and supervision meetings that preceded the sessions of the implementations in course in the transition to lockdown. The result was an addendum to the R&D Program Manual with General and Specific Guidelines to be considered in the implementations constricted by pandemic contingencies in three formats: online, mixed and face-to-face. The pilot implementations were held in four groups of students in the second semester of 2019/20 school year. The methodologies and materials proved to be adequate and consistent with the R&D objectives, indicating the suitability of the Program adaptation. Ten implementations were then carried out in the different formats in 2020/21: face-to-face (1), mixed (1) and online (8). All the implementations were positively evaluated by the participants and facilitators.
The pandemic context has made preventive intervention at a distance imperative. Despite its constraints, the experience showed the relevance of online interventions in times when the limitations imposed do not allow a face-to-face approach, as it shortens the distance between students and formal support structures. Hence the importance of flexibility in preventive intervention with young people, responding to their needs in terms of skill development while meeting the motivations of digital natives. This innovative experience highlights the need that future perspectives include the validation of different formats and its gamification.