A Mapping of Global Prevention Materials: Celebrating Good Practice and Identifying Significant Gaps
As a leading drug prevention organisation Mentor International strives to apply and share our knowledge internationally so that the benefits of effective drug prevention policy and practice become visible worldwide. We aim to support the global drug prevention community by providing evidence-based materials and information. However, we often struggle to confidently sign-post our stakeholders to relevant and effective materials enabling them to support young people to lead healthy lives and avoid substance abuse. Consequently, we developed a project to identify and present the most effective resources available online. We hope this is beneficial to those working in drug prevention around the world.
What we did
For the purpose of the project we defined resources as learning materials that include, but are not limited to, lesson plans, fact sheets, interactive games, posters, videos, guidelines and top tips. Typically these materials are used as part of long-term prevention programmes led by trained facilitators. Whilst research shows that sustained evidence-based programmes are the most effective means of prevention, they require commitment including staff, equipment and funding; which not all organisations/individuals are able to allocate. In an effort to support these entities and introduce more people to the concept of primary prevention, we scoured the Internet for drug prevention resources used by organisations around the world that fit the following criteria:
Evidence-based: reflects knowledge and understanding derived from valid and robust research or produced by reputable academic institutions/organisations
Accessible to the audience: easily located online and presented in a user friendly format
Free: free of charge (to be downloaded or ordered for free). NB: there are several high quality paid resources out there, but for this project we wanted to focus on universally accessible resources.
Focused on prevention of substance abuse rather than treatment
Available in English: online resources available in primarily English-speaking countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK
Prevention is most effective when approached holistically, reaching young people through a range of channels including the home, school, community, faith-based organisations, public services and indirectly through public policy. Therefore, we mapped the resources ensuring we covered a variety of groups supporting young people including parents/families, teachers/practitioners, policy makers and community leaders.
We found an abundance of high quality resources produced by some of the leading prevention organisations including:
Australian Drug Foundation (ADF), Australia
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), Canada
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), USA
Parent Action on Drugs (PAD), Canada
Partnership for Drug Free Kids (PDF), USA
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), USA
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
After our initial search, we expanded our search by looking at organisations and publications referenced by the organisations listed above. In total we mapped 108 resources from 25 organisations in 5 countries. Once we had mapped and organised the resources based on our criteria, we consulted with experts in the field (members of Mentor International’s Scientific Advisory Network) to ensure our findings were reasonable.
After analysing a variety of resources for each audience (see Annex), we explored broader themes and trends found across all the resources.
In order for prevention initiatives to produce positive change, practitioners must consider the cultural context of their target community, and have the knowledge and skills to work within this context. This means working with people from the community to plan, implement and evaluate prevention activities that incorporate community-based values, traditions and customs. We actively looked for culturally specific resources and found a small number of good examples:
The Australian agency, the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH), provides specialist information, training and support on cultural diversity and wellbeing. They offer useful resources that support practitioners and policy level prevention implementers to ensure their programmes are culturally adapted.
The Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) has produced a fact sheet explaining some of the risk and protective factors for alcohol and drug use that young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds may experience.
SAMHSA’s Office of Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse (OIASA) and its federal partners provide Native American communities with technical assistance and resources to help them achieve their awareness, prevention, and treatment goals.
Even though a few organisations focus on adapting resources to specific audiences, overall we found limited examples that were adapted to the needs of minority groups.
Non-native English Speakers
Considering how many different languages are spoken in the Western world, and given that around 20% of families in the USA and Canada, 18% in Australia and 8% in the UK speak a language other than English at home, very few resources produced by Western organisations are available in other languages. Organisations such as SAMHSA, NIDA and PDF translate some resources into Spanish and PAD and CCSA provide some materials in French. However, the overwhelming majority of resources are available in English only. Some practitioners have argued that simply translating Western-oriented prevention initiatives without cultural adaptation would not be effective, so it would be vital that resources are adequately culturally adapted prior to translation.
Reading Barriers (including visual impairment, learning and language barriers)
In our search we found some resources presented in a variety of formats such as videos and interactive games, making them more suitable for individuals with reading barriers. NIDA has developed a drug prevention website designed for anyone with reading/language barriers which allows users to listen to texts through a read-speaker function. ADF also offers this option for the majority of their materials. NIDA has also created a text light interactive parenting programme (Talk: They hear you). In general, we found that few organisations cater to individuals with reading barriers and the ones that do provide resources that still require some level of reading skills.
We found very few gender-targeted resources and materials that highlight the role of gender in substance abuse and prevention. There are a few examples of resources that take the gender of a young person into consideration. Parents Action on Drugs (PAD) has developed a good resource targeting teen girls specifically. ADF’s resources point out differences between the effects of alcohol on girls and boys physically, so we found it interesting that there were not more resources available reflecting this gender variation.
We could not find any resources targeting specifically mothers or fathers to prevent their children’s substance abuse. In other areas of prevention such resources are available i.e. The Center for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) has developed a resource particularly for fathers around preventing their children's risky sexual behaviour.
The majority of resources targeting parents offer guidelines to address substance abuse with their teenagers. However, we found limited resources that offer guidelines for parents speaking to young children under nine years of age. An example of this is PAD’s online pamphlet that offers guidelines for parents to address drug prevention at an early age. The majority of resources for children aged 12 and under are mainly targeted at the children themselves, rather than their parents, and are therefore mostly presented in the form of child-friendly interactive games or activity lessons.
We found limited resources specifically targeting some of the most vulnerable groups at risk of substance abuse such as single parent families, adopting/foster parents, asylum seekers, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT), homeless young people and children in care amongst other groups. Even though resources tailored towards the needs of marginalised groups are scarce, there is some promising drug prevention work emerging to support some specific groups such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. SAMHSA, in collaboration with San Francisco State University, has produced a valuable resource on supporting LGBT children for practitioners. Research suggests that the challenges that LGBT youth encounter on a daily basis (i.e. discrimination, bullying or harassment) can have negative health effects and can produce a vulnerability to substance abuse and suicidal behaviour.
Although broad and universal prevention materials are valuable, it is essential for resources to be readily adaptable to specific communities and cultures. We urge organisations to produce more culturally adapted resources.
Organisations should translate culturally adapted resources into a variety of languages spoken in their country/region.
Organisations should make their resources more readily available to those with reading and learning barriers.
More resources should be developed acknowledging gender differences in substance abuse and prevention.
More resources should be developed to offer guidelines to parents speaking to children under the age of 12.
More resources should be produced for at-risk groups. We would urge any organisation that targets one or more of these groups to send us prevention materials so we can promote your best practice:
a) Single parents b) Teen parents c) Adopting/foster parents d) Alternative carers: step parents, young carers/children of parents with terminal illness, older siblings with significant caring responsibilities e) Asylum seekers/refugees/unaccompanied minors f) Children in care/care-leavers g) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) h) Victims of abuse/children of families affected by domestic violence i) Ex-offenders/families affected by the penal system j) Families affected by bereavement k) Homeless young people/families affected by homelessness
Increased acknowledgement that marginalised young people are at a greater risk of substance abuse. There are a few examples of resources that target marginalised groups and we hope that more prevention organisations are inspired by good practice and continue to create more resources tailored to young people at a higher risk of substance abuse.
Look out for our upcoming digital tool which will direct you to the resources mentioned above. We urge members of the prevention community who use impactful evidence-based prevention resources to share their good practice with us. Please send materials to update [at] mentorinternational [dot] org We look forward to reviewing your examples of good practice!