What's New in Prevention?
Using an Integrated Approach to Provide School-based Prevention Programming
According to the 2015 Connecticut Youth Risk Behavior Survey published by the Department of Public Health, 30% of high school students in Connecticut have had at least one drink in the last month and 20.4% have used marijuana in that time period. Ten percent of high school students initiated alcohol use before the age of 13, and 5.8% of them tried marijuana before they were 13. Prevention is critical to lowering these rates.
Young people spend the majority of their time in school. It is a natural place to offer critical prevention services. Offering a school-based prevention program can address social norms and build personal skills to increase healthy decision making. Prevention programs that target risk factors for alcohol and substance use can be helpful in postponing first use and reducing the prevalence of use. Engagement in prevention programs can aid young people in developing lifelong attitudes and behaviors that will support their well-being.
Unfortunately, offering school-based prevention is sometimes easier said than done. School staff and prevention services alike may struggle with similar issues including finding interventions that work in a school environment, are cost effective and are easily implemented with limited time and staff capacity.
The key to overcoming these challenges is finding programs and strategies that are the right fit, using an integrated approach that connects education and prevention. The most successful approaches are collaborations between school staff and prevention providers. The two work together to identify and implement strategies that meet the needs of the school population. They work within the school’s unique environment to provide programs that are grounded in prevention theory and are evidence-based.
When implementing a prevention program, educators and prevention specialists should assess the programming and needs of each school first. Answering the ten questions below at the outset helps to evaluate the proposed program, determines whether it meets the needs of the school and whether there is capacity to implement it. This supports the development of a strong partnership with clear expectations, roles, and understanding of how partners will work together to bring success to the students they serve.
These questions can serve as a guide to finding a program that is the right fit.
The school environment:
- What grade(s) are you targeting? Is it a universal approach for the whole grade level or only targeted to a group of students?
- When will the program occur and how much time will you have?
- Who takes the lead in the school on implementing the program? What is their capacity to take this on?
- Are there funds available for this or are you seeking a free program?
- How might you engage other segments of the community, such as parents in the program in order to maximize its impact?
The proposed prevention program:
- Is the program evidence-based? What theory is it grounded in?
- Does it build personal and social skills? Does the program address social norms around alcohol and substance use?
- Who runs the program – peers, parents, teachers, others? How are they trained? What support do they need and who provides it?
- What teaching modalities does it use and are they culturally and developmentally appropriate for the students?
- How is the program evaluated? What is the school’s responsibility around evaluation?
The Partnership is available to support your efforts to promote and implement prevention programming in your school or organization. Refer to the Resources section of this newsletter or contact Monique Price-Taylor, Program Manager, Peer-to-Peer Prevention Initiatives at Monique.Price-Taylor@PreventionWorksCT.org or 860.757.3592.