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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
UNITED KINGDOM: Targeting School and Home Helps Cut Risky Behaviors
Genevra Pittman
January 17, 2012
Reuters Health (12.28.11) - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Interventions that successfully prevent drug use and risky sexual behavior among youths target multiple areas of their lives and often span years, a recent study found.

"To have multiple effects, you can't just have one hour a day for a few weeks and that's it. It's just like learning math or reading - you have to keep going over multiple years," said Brian Flay, of Oregon State University-Corvallis, whose study was among those analyzed in the systematic review. Programs should involve "not just the school, but also getting the parents involved and targeting them," he said. "And even with the school, targeting the whole school climate and not just the curriculum." Of the 13 studies, three showed positive effects on at least one measure of drug use and one of risky sexual behavior. These were a Chicago-based social development curriculum with parent support; a Baltimore HIV reduction program involving small groups and parent monitoring; and a Seattle elementary school program teaching school and family bonding skills.

All three interventions targeted African-American, low-income or high-crime communities, and their participants rated better than a comparison group on drug use, heavy drinking, smoking, condom use, and pregnancy. The researchers wrote that programs targeting multiple domains (individual and peer, family, school, and community) of risk and protective factors for risk behavior were generally more effective than those targeting just one domain.

Starting school and community interventions even earlier, in the preteen years, may be most effective in preventing these risks before they start, suggested study leader Caroline Jackson, of the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy in Edinburgh, and colleagues. However, "further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of this approach," they concluded.

The full study, "Interventions to Prevent Substance Use and Risky Sexual Behavior in Young People: A Systematic Review," was published in Addiction (2011;doi:10.1111/j.1360- 0443.2011.03751.x).