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Does APSI Training Make A Difference? Some Evidence That It Does! - Part 1

In our extensive development work on the Universal Prevention Curriculum series, APSI and its scientist collaborators were involved in ensuring that the curricula reflect the latest outcomes of research and practice, in addition to using effective training strategies to promote effective delivery of the knowledge and skills needed in the practice setting. Throughout the development phase and later training, APSI has conducted pre- and post-testing of the delivery of the training to prevention professionals, which have demonstrated increases in knowledge about prevention science and its application to setting-based prevention interventions. But we haven’t had the opportunity to determine the basic question of whether training teachers, for example, on the UPC School-based Curriculum can make a difference in practices and outcomes. A recently published article reports some promising findings.


A collaborative research study involving the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation and Applied Prevention Science International was designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the UPC School-Based Prevention Interventions and associated training in Lima, Peru. This graphic depicts the design of the randomized control trial, which shows that school personnel in middle schools randomly assigned to the intervention condition received the complete 2-week UPC training AND training in the evidence-based universal prevention program called Unplugged, while the schools in the control condition ONLY received the training in Unplugged. This allowed the opportunity to see whether the UPC training could enhance teacher competency and potential impact in delivering the intervention to students.


The focus of the UPC School-Based Prevention Intervention is on three prevention components: evidence-based school policies relevant to substance use on and off the school property, creating a positive classroom and school climate, and delivering an evidence-based prevention curriculum. Key to this training is an emphasis not only on prevention science particularly human development and theories of learning and human behavior reinforcing what educators learned in their professional training but also on building a team and infrastructure to support, monitor and sustain prevention programming over time. The team, the Prevention Leadership Action Team (PLAT), is made up of representatives of personnel from all levels as well as students, parents, and if desired other community stakeholders.



Data consisted of repeated cross-sectional student surveys conducted over the period May 2018 through November 2019. The study was truncated due to COVID. Principal outcomes of interest were:

· Lifetime drug use

· Past-year and past-month tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use

· Awareness of school tobacco and alcohol use policies

· Perceived enforcement of school policies

· School bonding; perceived friends’ use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs

· Personal problems in general and problems related to substance use.


Multi-level analyses indicated significant reductions in past-year and past-month smoking and alcohol use, friends’ substance use, and perceptions of problems related to substances.


Significant increases were also found in intervention vs. control schools related to students’ awareness of school substance use policies, perceived likelihood of getting caught for smoking, and school bonding.





These findings suggest that the training in the Universal Prevention Curriculum and the creation of the PLATs to make school policy and climate changes resulted in reduced substance use and related problems in the study population of Peruvian adolescents. Furthermore, the training resulted not only in the full implementation of Unplugged that did not occur in the control schools but also to sustain all the prevention programming over the study period. A recent visit (Spring 2023) to the intervention schools indicated that these schools have continued the PLATs and the three prevention components.

 

Reference Paschall MJ, Salazar Silva F, Sloboda Z, Ringwalt CL, Grube JW. Effects of the Universal Prevention Curriculum for Schools on Substance Use Among Peruvian Adolescents: A Randomized Trial. Journal of Drug Education. 2023 Jun 26:472379231185130. doi: 10.1177/00472379231185130. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37365824.




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