Headshot of Michael L. Hecht

Michael L. Hecht

Distinguished Professor Emeritus


"My hope and mission is to advance prevention science through developing, testing, and widely disseminating evidence-based interventions."

Michael Hecht started in prevention research over 40 years ago, after a graduate student recruited him to collaborate on a narrative project targeting adolescent drug use. Now, Michael focuses his work on school and community-based prevention, culture and health, health message design and narrative health messages. Through his research, Michael hopes to promote healthy, safe, and responsible behaviors among youth.  

Michael has worked on several evidence-based interventions including keepin’ it REAL and REAL Media targeting youth substance use, HPV Stories for HPV vaccine promotion and Mighty Teens for reducing risky sexual behaviors. These are not only evidence-based and recognized by the Surgeon General, NCI and the American Cancer Society, but they advance his Narrative Engagement Theory and Principle of Cultural Grounding.

Now retired from Penn State and President of REAL Prevention LLC, he continues to build upon his previous projects, developing adaptations of keepin’ it REAL for Nicaragua and the UK, disseminating based Women’s Stories (with Planned Parenthood) and REAL media (with the 4-H clubs) and developing REAL Parenting (with PRC faculty affiliate Rob Turrisi), the Opioid Rapid Response System for prevention deaths from overdose and the Student Athlete Wellness Portal for reducing prescription opioid misuse. This work specializes in digital or online interventions using his engagement model.

Dr. Hecht has authored more than 200 books, chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles that have appeared in publications including Prevention Science, Journal of Adolescent Health and Health Communication

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