The PROSPER Partnership Model: Collaborating to Reduce Teen Substance Use
Alcohol and other drug use among our nation’s youth remains a major public health problem. However, evidence-based prevention programs can help stop youth substance abuse before it starts. To facilitate and support the implementation of scientifically tested substance abuse prevention programs, the PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience) Partnership Model builds a unique relationship among public schools, university extension systems, and prevention scientists to support community teams that implement evidence-based school and family programs. These evidence-based programs are designed to enhance skills that prevent adolescents from engaging in behaviors that lead to substance misuse and conduct problems, and to help promote positive family relationships, academic achievement, and involvement with prosocial peers, or peers who behave voluntarily in ways intended to benefit others.
The PROSPER approach focuses on small, strategic teams made up of community stakeholders who partner with local middle schools to plan and deliver the programs. Teams are responsible for implementing a universal, family-focused program with 6th-grade youth and a school-based program with 7th-grade youth. Prevention coordinators serve as coaches for the teams and link each community to the state management team, which is comprised of extension administrators and family/youth specialists, along with prevention scientists. In this way, community teams have access to the latest research and benefit from the expertise and consistent support of the university extension systems.
The PROSPER team in Fort Dodge, located in Webster County, Iowa, has been using this model for delivering programs since 2002. Led by a Webster County extension representative and an administrator from Fort Dodge Community Schools, the team includes representatives from the area middle schools, the Fort Dodge Juvenile Court Office, and other community agencies. Every year, the PROSPER team invites all 6th graders and their parents to participate in the Strengthening Families program for parents and youth aged 10–14 years, a curriculum that is designed to delay the onset of adolescent substance use and build positive relationships between parents and youth. The 7th-grade students receive the LifeSkills Training program, a substance abuse and violence prevention program. The Fort Dodge PROSPER team serves an average of 65 6th-grade families and 250 7th graders per year.
Overall, findings from research have shown the PROSPER Model to have wide-ranging positive effects, including family strengthening, parenting, and youth skill outcomes, as well as longer-term adolescent behavioral outcomes.1 In addition, data from an evaluation study begun in 2001 indicate that youth in communities that offered programs through the PROSPER delivery system showed significantly lower rates of a number of negative outcomes, including prescription drug misuse, drunkenness, cigarette use, marijuana use, methamphetamine use, and use of other illicit substances, up to 6.5 years past baseline.1 Currently, the PROSPER Partnership Model is being used in 27 communities in 5 states across the country. The PROSPER Network plans to establish additional states partnerships in the future.
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