An expanded program from Wright State University School of Medicine will monitor adolescent substance abuse and other health care issues in Ohio. Early intervention remains the most viable solution to substance abuse, and the program will provide policy-makers and school administrators with critical data to make informed decisions. The program expansion is supported by a gift from the Kettering Fund of Dayton.
The Youth Health Survey (YHS) will be offered, at no cost, to Ohio school districts, beginning with the state's northwest quadrant. Information about the survey will go to school superintendents in mid-October. The survey will be administered in February and March 2002.
YHS builds upon the Dayton Area Drug Survey (DADS), which has carefully monitored the incidence and prevalence of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by Miami Valley teens since 1990. The DADS instrument has been updated over the years to address rapidly changing drug trends. In addition, questions about violence have been added.
The YHS instrument can be customized for schools to assess other adolescent concerns, such as nutrition, fitness, driving, or mental health. A unique feature of YHS is the consultation that will be available from Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research staff, as well as medical faculty in family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics and emergency medicine.
"This program," says Harvey A. Siegal, Ph.D., director of the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research and professor of community health, "will be a window into what is going on with our youth. YHS will give communities information that will allow them to enhance program effectiveness. This information is important, because much of what it known about drug abuse problems relates to data obtained from the nation's major metropolitan - often times coastal -areas."
Dayton-area school districts have found the DADS survey helpful. According to Carolyn Miller, Intervention Counselor, the Centerville City School District uses the survey not only to monitor teen drug use, but also to "plan our health curriculum around the data because we find it very reliable." Northmont City School District has used the DADS survey for many years. Michael Seaman, Student Assistance Counselor at Northmont, has found that "decisions about our prevention efforts are easier with raw data about the patterns of use of our students. We also apply for a variety of grants each year, and the DADS survey makes it possible."
Students complete the survey voluntarily and anonymously, through procedures approved by the Wright State University Institutional Review Board. School personnel give the survey in a classroom setting following established procedures. The school districts determine which grades, from 7 through 12, they wish to survey.
Scientists from the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research will provide analytical interpretation of the results and help with intervention strategies and program development as part of this large community outreach project. Kettering City School District has been a participant in the survey since 1990. Karen Day, Counselor, says, "Even though it has been cost-free, the quality of the survey, expertise of tabulation, confidential handling of results has been of the high quality associated with fine university-based research."
Communities are unique, according to Russel Falck, M.A., project director for the DADS survey, and it is presumptuous to assume that problems are the same throughout the state or even from one school to another in the same district. "One of the exciting aspects of this program," said Siegal, "is that there promises to be outliers. If, for example, we find a school that has an extremely low prevalence of tobacco use, we can further analyze those results. So, the information becomes valuable for behavioral research studies and for health care delivery in that community."
"This new program will provide needed statewide data that Ohio needs to plan its tobacco and substance abuse prevention programs. This is an enormous public health issue, and we believe this program will help stop the cycle of substance abuse," says Howard M. Part, M.D., dean of the Wright State's School of Medicine.
The Kettering Fund of Dayton has supported the development of research centers of excellence in the School of Medicine over the past three years.