Information as a component of prevention: Is it worth it? Evaluation of an informative substance use prevention school project
The "informative" component of prevention concerns the provision of scientifically grounded information on psychoactive substances and addiction.
The "Who Wants To Be in Charge" Game, was developed within the Prevention team with the purpose of working the informative component in the field of addiction prevention.
It is being extensively used in addiction prevention, among school populations in the municipalities of Amadora and Sintra, in the framework of projects carried out in partnership between DICAD - CRI of Western Lisbon - Prevention Team, ACES School Health Teams and schools in these municipalities. It is used on a perspective of continuous intervention and, preferably, associated with other levels and components of prevention.
The objectives of this intervention are:
• Increase knowledge and risk perception about addictive behaviours;
• Increase negative expectations about use and lower positive expectations.
• Strengthen the partnership between health structures that have responsibility for preventive intervention in schools (ACES School Health Teams and CRI Prevention Team) and school community.
A number of questions related to addictive behaviours or psychoactive substances, organized as a quiz, are discussed. The questions are selected from the auscultation of students. The most frequent questions are selected and the game items are created according to them.
Training is carried out with teachers and school staff in which they experience the game and become familiar with the issues addressed, as well as with the dynamics of the debate that is intended to promote.
With students a quiz session is done, between 50 and 90 '. The discussion always comes from the contributions of the groups. A winning group emerges, and an inter-tournament between the groups representing the classes is done.
For process and outcome evaluation, a protocol consisting of a pre and post-intervention questionnaire was used, analysing the knowledge and risk perception dimensions.
The project takes place for four years in Sintra and three years in Amadora. To date, 7 schools in Amadora and 10 in Sintra have been involved. In Amadora the project covers all 7th degree students.
Approximately 2000 questionnaires were validated. Data are still being worked on, but it is possible to observe some trends, namely: young people seem to have a high level of information on psychoactive substances, at the beginning; areas where information has more "myths" were identified, which allowed, in subsequent years, to adjust some of the questions of the quiz. A differentiated risk perception was observed for the different substances. Most students consider it is very important that school discusses the subject of addictive behaviours. Teachers share the same opinion.
To inform using interactive methodologies and based on the adolescents’ questions and doubts is a more effective way of developing the informative component of prevention. The assessment shows how this game has increased clear information on addictive behaviours, as well as the evolution of psychoactive substances use risk perception. Receiving information in a reflexive and critical way is a competence for which this game contributes and can thus function as a useful complement to more extensive skills training programs.