A community based prevention system aimed at promoting healthy behaviour among young people can cut rates of binge drinking among teenagers, latest study results suggest.
US researchers studied more than 4,400 students from 12 pairs of US cities. One city in each pair tested the “communities that care” system, an initiative designed to lower rates of drug and alcohol use and bad behaviour among teens.
Following an assessment of the risk factors that contribute to drug use and delinquent behaviour, each town in the intervention group identified two to five of these as their top priorities.
They were then given information about scientifically tested programmes that addressed the priority risk factors, and were given one year’s training on how to implement them. Cities in the control group were given no assistance.
Four years after the study began, the researchers found that binge drinking among 13 to 14 year olds was 37% lower in the ‘communities that care’ cities than those that did not use the system.
Drug use, including smoking, marijuana use, and using prescription and illicit drugs was also significantly lower in the intervention cities, the researchers said.
The study also showed that teenagers from the intervention cities committed 31% fewer delinquent acts, such as stealing, damaging property, and attacking someone than those that did not use the system.
“What makes this system different from other prevention efforts is that it provides community coalitions with scientifically based tools with which to make decisions based on what is important to each town,” said lead study author David Hawkins from the University of Washington’s social development research group.
“Communities that care provides a menu of tested policies and programmes and offers a system for reassessment every two years so a community can change or modify its programme to achieve the outcomes it wants. The key is to build ownership by empowering each community to make scientifically grounded decisions about what programme they need,” he added in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.