The interactive “multi-media” initiative is called Living the Example (LTE), a program that incorporates messages for prevention specifically designed to counteract the misinformation adolescents have about drugs and alcohol. Messages are framed to promote the benefits of prevention behaviors. “This approach to branding, an alternative, healthy behavior, or ‘counter-marketing’ as it has been termed in tobacco control, has been highly effective and is recognized as one of the main elements in successful prevention programs, such as in tobacco control,” says Principal Investigator, Dr. Doug Evans, a pioneer in the use of this strategy. Dr. Evans is a Professor of Prevention and Community Health & Global Health, with Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.
Youth Ambassadors are trained to create LTE branded prevention messages, disseminate them via social media platforms, and engage peers in their preferred social networks, with the intention of increasing peer interaction around the brand’s core messaging. Positive receptivity to LTE messages was associated with some evidence of reduced self-reported drug use intentions, specifically for marijuana use, and reports of intent to use any drug. Among youth who reported exposure and receptivity to LTE, they reported a significant decrease in marijuana use intentions. The most common overall reason for drug use among all respondents was family stress (81.3%), boredom (40%) and academic stress (40%).
“Findings from the study suggest that peer-to-peer substance use prevention via social media is a promising strategy, especially given the low cost and low burden as an intervention channel, which schools, communities, and prevention programs can use as an approach, even in low resource settings,” says Michaela Pratt, President of Mentor Foundation USA. “Through our international network, Mentor Foundation shares over 20 years of global experience in best prevention practices, and Mentor Foundation USA has always been a pioneer in empowering young people to become their own advocates for drug prevention.”
The LTE program is developed and implemented by Mentor Foundation USA. The data-collection and research is overseen by George Washington University. The program is funded by the Rip Van Winkle Foundation, The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Columbia County Community Healthcare Consortium, Foundation for Community Health and the Hudson River Bank & Trust Company Foundation.