Edward A. Smith 

photo of Edward Smith

Research Professor, Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development

Contact Information

302 BBH Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


(fax) 814-865-2530




Research Interests

Most of my work has centered around adolescent risk behaviors, specifically preventing unwanted teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, substance use, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. This research focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs aimed at improving the lives of adolescents and young adults. Much of this research works at the interface between scientific and applied research, working with program providers, developers, and administrators to improve programs by incorporating pragmatic evaluation findings. The settings for these programs have included schools, health clinics, camps, and community and recreation centers. This research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the United States Navy, the Department of Justice, state and provincial health departments, and private foundations.

Description of Current Projects

Adolescent Drug and HIV Prevention in South Africa
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, HealthWise is a comprehensive, risk-reduction life skills curriculum for adolescents. The overall goals of the HealthWise curriculum are to (1) reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STIs, (2) reduce drug and alcohol abuse, and (3) increase positive use and experience of free and leisure time. The curriculum consists of twelve lessons for Grade 8 learners, and six lessons for Grade 9 learners. This program is being evaluated with a randomized controlled trial involving over 7,500 adolescents living near Cape Town, South Africa.

Capacity Building for Research on HIV Stigma in South Africa

This project, which is headed by Collins Airhihenbuwa (Penn State Department of Biobehavioral Health), partners with the Human Sciences Research Council and two universities in South Africa to enhance the research capability of faculty and students to conduct research on the reduction of HIV stigma. This project is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.


B.S., 1971, Frostburg State College
M.A., 1972, West Virginia University
Dr. P.H., 1983, University of North Carolina

Professional Experience

1983-1986: Assistant Professor, Gynecology and Obstetrics and the Department of Population Dynamics, The Johns Hopkins Universtiy, Baltimore, MD

1986-1989: Assistant Professor, Department of Health Studies and the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, The University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario

1989-1993: Associate Professor, Department of Public Health Education, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

1993-1995: Associate Professor, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

1995-1999: Associate Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University

1999-2012: Director of Evaluation Research, Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, College of Health and Human Development; Director of the Prevention and Methodology Training Program;The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

2012-Present: Director, Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center.

Selected Publications

Caldwell, L. L., Patrick, M., Smith, E. A., Palen, L., & Wegner, L. (in press). Influencing adolescent leisure motivation: Intervention effects of HealthWise South Africa. Journal of Leisure Research.

Coffman, D., Smith, E.A., & Caldwell, L.L. (in press). Effects of HealthWise South Africa on condom use self-efficacy. Prevention Science.

Patrick, M. E., Palen, L., Caldwell, L., Gleeson, S., Smith, E., & Wegner, L. (2010). A qualitative assessment of South African adolescents’ motivations for and against substance use and sexual behavior. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20, 456-481.

Palen, L., Smith, E. A., & Caldwell, L. L. (2009). Transitions to substance use and sexual intercourse among South African high school students. Substance Use and Misuse, 44(13), 1872–1887.

Patrick, M. E., Collins, L. M., Smith, E. A., Caldwell, L. L., Flisher, A. J., & Wegner, L. (2009). A prospective longitudinal model of substance use onset among South African adolescents. Substance Use and Misuse, 44, 647–662. PMCID: PMC2796627

Tibbits, M. K., Caldwell, L. L., Smith, E. A., & Wegner, L. (2009). The relation between profiles of leisure activity participation and substance use among South African youth. The World Leisure Journal, 51, 150–159.

Palen, L., Smith, E., Caldwell, L.L., Flisher, A.J., Wegner, L. & Vergnani, T. (2008). Inconsistent reports of sexual intercourse among South African high school students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(3), 221-227.

Smith, E.A., Palen, L., Caldwell, L.L., Graham, J., Flisher, A., Wegner, L., Mathews, C., Vergnani, T. (2008). Substance use and sexual risk prevention in South Africa: An evaluation of the HealthWise Program. Prevention Science, 9, 311-321.

Caldwell, L.L., Younker, A., Wegner, L., Patrick, M., Vergnani, T., Smith, E.A., Flisher, A.J. (2008). Understanding leisure related program effects by using process data in the HealthWise South Africa project. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 26(2), 146-162 .

Wegner, L., Flisher, A.J., Caldwell, L., Vergnani, T., Smith, E. (2007). HealthWise South Africa: Cultural Adaptation of a School-Based Risk Prevention Program. Health Education Research Journal, 23, 1085-1096.

Center Affiliations

  • Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development

Strategic Themes

  • Domains of Health and Behavior
  • Methodology