State: New Hampshire
Client(s): Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
Services: Health Care & Public Health Planning, Training & Technical Assistance
Technical Expertise: Substance Use, State and Local Public Health, Adolescent Health
Substance abuse among youth is a significant problem with dire social, academic, economic, and health consequences for individuals and communities. In New Hampshire’s Lower Grafton County Region, youth report an average age of onset for alcohol use at 13.3 years old (2009 Local Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data). The Bridges To Prevention (B2P) Coalition in the Lower Grafton County Region has identified increasing age of onset for alcohol use as a regional priority, and is preparing to launch a social norms “Raise the Age” campaign to address this priority in the fall of 2012. The Coalition recognizes the importance of engaging youth in their prevention efforts, and seeks to establish a region-wide Youth Leadership Group to engage in the process.
Bridges To Prevention contracted with the Community Health Institute/JSI to develop and manage an Action Learning Collaborative (ALC) for students from middle schools across the region. Through four group learning sessions and meetings with individual teams of 4-6 students and advisors from each of three participating middle schools between learning sessions, the Community Health Institute/JSI supported the development of Leadership Groups within each school that link to the B2P coalition, providing a voice for youth in substance abuse prevention and contributing a valuable perspective to B2P strategic planning. The ALC supported students and advisors to conduct an assessment of their school to identify strengths and opportunities for leadership development, supported team-building and meeting skills, and provided opportunities for students from each school to learn from each other.
Students from three middle schools in the Lower Grafton County Region established formal Leadership Groups which met regularly, learned meetings skills, and engaged in activities that included enhancing drug and alcohol awareness, increasing awareness of dangers and exposure to inhalants, making good choices in middle school, and engaging in community gardening as a healthy community service activity. The official region-wide Youth Leadership Group kickoff event, planned by the youth leaders, was held in May 2012, and plans are in place to continue to build capacity in this area with future ALCs that include additional schools in the region.