Any parent or teacher who has served on a drug prevention task
force knows that stopping kids from trying illegal substances can
be a complex task.
Now, research from the National Institutes of Health provides insight into the most effective ways to influence kids' behavior for the better.
A four-year, nationwide study revealed a significant drop in risky behaviors of middle school kids using a strategy called Communities That Care. The system allows parents, school officials and community leaders to identify the unique risk factors for their youth and then tailor their strategy, choosing from several programs proven to work.
"We have 30 years of research on what works in drug abuse prevention and intervention. The problem has been how to get these out to communities and help them get started, give them training and technical assistance throughout the process," says Eve Reider, acting branch chief for prevention research at NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Researchers studied a group of fifth-graders from 24 communities nationwide-including Freeport, Ill.-and assigned half of those communities the CTC system. By the eighth grade, those students in CTC communities were 32 percent less likely to begin using alcohol, 33 percent less likely to begin smoking and 33 percent less likely to begin using smokeless tobacco than their peers in the control communities.
Such positive outcomes, published recently in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, show that it isn't enough to simply bring a task force together, Reider says. The key, she says, is to help communities choose from programs that have been proven successful and that fit best.
The next step, Reider says, is to recruit more communities to join CTC.
For more information on Communities That Care, go to www.preventionplatform.samhsa.gov. For more information on prevention programs, go to www.nida.nih.gov/prevention/contents.html.
Lisa Applegate is a freelance writer and mom of one living in Chicago.
See more of Lisa's stories here.