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Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Substance Abuse Prevention Program -- Albuquerque, New Mexico

In 1983, Harrison Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, implemented a successful substance abuse prevention program. ALL STAR, which stands for Activity Leadership Laboratories--Students Teaming Around Responsibility, emphasizes collaboration among students, teachers, school administrators, and parents in developing standards of student behavior. The program was designed in 1972 by the Center for Education Development, a nonprofit organization that until September 1987 served as the Southwest Regional Training Center for the U.S. Department of Education in San Antonio, Texas. The Albuquerque program resulted from a training session sponsored by the New Mexico Department of Education.

The ALL STAR program emphasizes the involvement of parents and community groups as well as students. The program uses student activities, clubs, and family- oriented programs such as mother-daughter aerobics classes and CPR classes to build self-esteem. Schools are encouraged to establish policies and procedures for dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, disruptive behavior, suspension referrals, and dropouts.

Surveys conducted in 1983 and 1986 documented substantive behavioral changes among the substantially Hispanic student population (73%) at Harrison Middle School. Self-reported alcohol use decreased from 63% in 1983 to 42% in 1986; use of inhalants decreased from 23% to 11%; use of depressants decreased from 28% to 10%; use of stimulants decreased from 35% to 15%; and use of phencyclidine or PCP decreased from 9% to 2%.

Violent behavior within the school also decreased. The number of students involved in fights declined from 27% to 18%; the proportion of teachers reporting disruptions in classrooms decreased from 65% to 55%; and reports of sexual threats or attacks decreased from 13% to 8%. The proportion of students sent to a doctor because of being injured at school declined from 15% to 6%.

In recognition of its achievement, Harrison Middle School received the Secretary's Community Health Promotion Award of Excellence from the Department of Health and Human Services. Reported by: C Lopez, Tamarron Substance Abuse Team, Albuquerque; L Pendley, New Mexico Office of Health Promotion, New Mexico Health and Environment Dept. Behavioral Epidemiology and Evaluation Br, Div of Health Education, Center for Health Promotion and Education, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: Four major health goals listed in the 1990 objectives for the nation focus on reducing substance abuse among adolescents (1). Although the midcourse review of objectives indicates a decline in drug and alcohol use among 12- to 17-year-olds (2), the prevalence of such behavior remains excessive. National data on drug abuse among youth of middle school age in general and Hispanics in particular are unavailable. Nevertheless, the use of alcohol and drugs within the group studied in this project seems particularly high.

This school-based substance abuse program, which engenders support from parents, students, and community groups, is apparently associated with positive changes in self-reported rates of substance abuse among program participants. Without a control or comparison group, however, interpretation of the results is problematic. There may be alternative explanations for the outcomes.

The ALL STAR program exemplifies many community-level efforts to mitigate complex problems such as drug abuse and violence among youth. These programs follow sound theoretical tenets and often borrow from other programs that have been used successfully elsewhere. They typically require considerable voluntary support, have small budgets and limited staff, and lack the resources necessary for evaluation. Public health professionals need to be aware of these problems and should encourage programs that show promise even though evaluation may be incomplete.

References

  1. Public Health Service. Healthy people: the Surgeon General's report on health promotion and disease prevention. Washington, DC: US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, 1979; DHEW publication no. (PHS)79-55071.

  2. Public Health Service. The 1990 health objectives for the nation: a midcourse review. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1986.

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