Coalition Building and Youth Substance Abuse Prevention in West Hartford, CT
ICR’s long-running prevention efforts in West Hartford, CT are a collaboration between the West Hartford Substance Abuse Prevention Commission, Institute for Community Research, West Hartford high school students and school administration, and community members. Our strategy engages teens as partners and leaders in Lead by Example, a social marketing prevention campaign, and targets key risk factors that operate at multiple levels to influence teen substance use. Using a detailed risk assessment, the commission and partners identified individuals’ perception of harm, peer norms, and access to alcohol and prescription drugs as three key risk factors to target in an effort to reduce underage drinking and prescription drug use among youth in West Hartford. ICR works closely with the Substance Abuse Prevention Commission and the West Hartford schools to coordinate prevention efforts and build sustainable partnerships that promote healthy decision-making and positive peer norms among youth in West Hartford.
Products of the Lead by Example campaign include an interactive theater script created by youth, three teen-produced films depicting scenarios involving substance abuse, a teen-designed campaign website, and campaign merchandise such as t-shirts and wristbands. The campaign products and messaging were developed through participatory action research with youth. ICR staff trained youth to conduct research among their peers and use the data to create several short films depicting the research findings in dramatized composite stories that highlight the risk factors in different scenarios that drive substance abuse among youth. These films have been shown in classrooms, at community-wide town hall meetings, and through a teen-created website.