Stream Description

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Anxiety, depressive and substance use disorders account for three quarters of the disability attributed to mental disorders. The peak of this disability occurs in those 15-24 years old and corresponds with the typical period of onset of these problems. Critically, anxiety, depression and substance use disorders share common risk factors.

To reduce the occurrence and cost of such disorders, preventative interventions need to begin early, before the problems begin to cause disability, and vocational, educational and social harm.  To date, the focus of our research has been on developing and evaluating universal internet-based programs to prevent substance use and related harms in adolescents. Our most recent trial involves combining these universal programs with selective personality-targeted interventions with an aim of maximising outcomes for both high and low risk youth.


Ongoing Projects

Development of culturally-appropriate resources to prevent alcohol and drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

A/Prof James Ward
Funding Body: Australian Government Department of Health

In partnership with Gilimbaa, an Indigenous Creative Agency, this project involves development of culturally appropriate school-based resources to prevent drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Development will be in consultation and collaboration with schools, teachers and young Indigenous Australians. An Expert Advisory Group has been established to guide the project. Scoping of existing resources and research literature will inform development of a central access portal, and a culturally-appropriate curriculum program based on the Climate Schools storyboard format. The online portal will facilitate dissemination of information and evidence-based approaches to prevent drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Project Contacts: Ms Mieke Snijder

Development of an integrated online intervention for Students and Parents to prevent alcohol and cannabis harms among adolescents / Climate Schools Plus

Funding Body: Australian Government Department of Health

Building on the successful Climate Schools: Student Programme, Climate Schools Plus will incorporate a parenting component aiming to enable parents to prevent alcohol and cannabis harms among their adolescent children. The parenting component is based on a successful program developed by Dr Ina Koning at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

In phase 1 of the project an Expert Advisory Group will be established to guide the design and development of the Climate Schools Plus Student and Parent Programme and focus testing and end-user consultation will be undertaken. Phase 2 will involve an implementation and effectiveness trial of the Programme. Climate Schools Plus will be the first online integrated student and parent program to prevent alcohol and cannabis harms among adolescents.

Project Contacts: Dr Cath Chapman
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Pathways to prevention: The effectiveness of universal and selective prevention in altering the developmental pathways to alcohol related harms in young adults

Professor Patricia Conrod, Assistant Professor Natalie Castellanous-Ryan
Funding Body: NHMRC

The Climate andPreventure (CAP) study was initiated in 2011 by Nicola Newton, Maree Teesson, Tim Slade and Patricia Conrod as a school-based prevention initiative targeting alcohol and drug use. The CAP study was the first ever randomised control trial of a comprehensive prevention approach combining both universal (Climate; delivered to all students) and selective (Preventure; delivered to high-risk students) intervention techniques. Twenty-six schools and 2,190 year 8 participants were recruited to the CAP trial in 2012, and randomised to one of four conditions: (1) Control (health education as usual), (2) Climate (universal prevention for all), (3) Preventure (selective prevention delivered only to 43% of students with high-risk personality profiles), or (4) Climate and Preventure (both universal and selective approaches). All students were followed up for 3 years post baseline. Results at 3 years have shown the effectiveness of universal and selective approaches in preventing harmful alcohol use among low- and high-risk adolescents. The CAP long-term follow up is an opportunistic extension of the landmark CAP study, whereby follow up of this cohort will extend beyond the completion of secondary school and into the critical transition period of early adulthood.

The investigators will extend longitudinal follow-up for a further 3 years, inviting the participants to take part in an online survey assessing demographic information, drinking and drug use habits, and behavioural and personality inventories. This $465,967 NHMRC funded long-term follow up project will be the first in the world to examine whether combining universal and selective drug prevention strategies enhances durability of effects in the longer-term, over a 7-year period from adolescence to early adulthood. The findings will inform policy nationally and internationally, as economic modelling suggests substantial societal benefit can be gained from even modest reductions in drug and alcohol use.

Project Contacts: A/Prof Nicola Newton
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CAP study – Combining effective universal and targeted approaches to drug prevention

Prof Patricia Conrod
Funding Body: National Health and Medical Research Council

More than one quarter of Australian teenagers put themselves at risk of short-term alcohol-related harm at least once a month and 17% use an illicit drug at least once a year. As such, the need for prevention is clear. Although an array of school-based prevention programs exist, the majority show minimal effects in reducing drug use and related harms, and some have even report iatrogenic effects. Given that school–based drug prevention is the primary means by which drug education is delivered, it is essential to focus on increasing program efficacy. Ideally, preventive interventions should aim to delay onset in both adolescents with low-risk profiles who may be influenced to take up substances due to peer influence and social conformity, and adolescents with high-risk profiles whose underlying vulnerability to psychopathology can lead to substance misuse. Yet, there appear to be no models of well implemented programs that do this. The current proposal addresses this gap by developing and evaluating a comprehensive approach to preventing substance use and related harms in adolescents by combining effective ‘universal’ and ‘targeted’ school-based prevention programs. The proposed model, known as the CAP (Climate and Preventure) intervention, builds on our unique success in this area through developing the effective universal Climate, and targeted Preventure programs.

Project Contacts: A/Prof Nicola Newton


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