When communities set out to reduce teen alcohol and drug use, they are often hampered by a lack of understanding and denial about the problems. EDC is working with 18 Boston-area towns to collect information on youth drinking and drug use and to help inform responses that will work.
With funding from the MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation, EDC is administering adolescent health surveys to middle and high school students every other year for 10 years. Since 2006, EDC has surveyed 23,000 teens to assess seven risk areas: substance use, smoking, violence, mental health and suicide, sexual behavior, physical activity, and diet. Each community receives local data to assist in targeting problems and monitoring progress.
“In order for these communities to reduce and prevent adolescent substance abuse, they need access to the best research available,” says Martin Cohen, president of the MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation. “They needed not only research about what strategies work best, but also local data on youth drinking and drug use and other related behaviors to help guide their approach.”
EDC’s MetroWest Technical Assistance Center (MTAC) then assists 11 of these towns in identifying effective programs that address its specific substance use issues. MTAC helps assess community factors that put youth at risk or protect them from substance abuse, and determines how ready the community is for adopting various research-based prevention approaches. Armed with this information, the communities can then identify a fitting strategy for prevention.
Originally published on July 25, 2008