Encouraging young people to develop healthy lifestyle habits and reduce unhealthy or risky behaviours is important for improving health across the life course. Alcohol use during adolescence has been shown to track into later adulthood and so may increase the likelihood of long-term harms to health.
Although there have been reductions in adolescent alcohol use over the past decade, it is still a public health priority to prevent young people from initiating alcohol use and to reduce existing alcohol use. Young people begin to experiment with alcohol as young as 13 years old so interventions to reduce alcohol are needed during this period of young adolescence.
In secondary school, adolescents usually receive a form of ‘personal and social education’ (PSE) which provides young people with the knowledge and skills to make healthy lifestyle choices. However, there is a lack of evidence for the impact of this type of health promoting education on health behaviours. Evidence suggests that health promotion with young people should be interactive and support them to make informed-decisions.
This study will explore the use of a new approach to PSE which is based on Group Motivational Interviewing (GMI), with a focus on alcohol use. We have developed a GMI intervention in collaboration with students and teachers that can be used in a typical PSE session. The intervention encourages students to interact with each other and share their experiences in order to reflect on their personal motivations for and against alcohol use. It also encourages students to make responsible and well-informed decisions. Our initial work suggests that students value these learning opportunities and that the GMI intervention is an acceptable approach to alcohol education in secondary schools.
However, in this initial work, the intervention was delivered by highly skilled and experienced facilitators. It would be unsustainable for schools to attempt to deliver the intervention in this way long-term. Hence, we have identified that a more sustainable approach would be for secondary school teachers (and other staff with a responsibility for delivering PSE) to deliver the intervention.
As part of this study, we will build on our initial work to explore what resources and skills teachers need in order to be able to deliver the intervention, and in collaboration with teachers, students and other stakeholders we will develop a training package to equip teachers with the skills needed for delivery. Following this, we will test the training package with a small number of teachers, and will evaluate how acceptable the package is to them.
We will follow this with an evaluation of the delivery of the intervention by the trained teachers to Year 8 students. We will interview the trained teachers to find out how feasible they think delivering the intervention is, and we will run focus groups with students who received the intervention to find out what they think about it as well. Following these evaluations we will work with teachers, students and other stakeholders to finalise the intervention design. This research will not tell us whether the intervention is effective in reducing or preventing alcohol use, but it supports the development of the intervention which could then be evaluated in the future.
For more information on this study, please contact Dr Jemma Hawkins on 02920 875 184 or via email at HawkinsJ10@cardiff.ac.uk.
Image courtesy of Schplook – Flickr Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/h8dv6nb