Effectiveness of culturally grounded adaptations of an evidence-based substance abuse prevention program with alternate school students

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Hopson, Laura Moon, 1971-

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Preventing substance use among alternative school students presents many challenges for researchers and practitioners. Because evidence-based programs are sometimes viewed as inadequate for addressing the needs of culturally diverse youth or irrelevant for youth in a particular school setting, there is a need for culturally grounded prevention programs. Prevention programs need to reflect the culture and life experiences of the participants in order to be effective. Creating adaptations of evidence-based programs for particular school settings can resolve this need if they are able to maintain evidence-based program components while incorporating the culture and life experiences of local students. The present study evaluated adapted versions of an evidence-based prevention program, Keepin’ it REAL. Four schools participated in an earlier phase of the study in which they created their own videos and materials to supplement the core curriculum. In the phase of the study presented here, the adapted versions of the curriculum are evaluated using mixed methods that include a quasi-experimental pretest posttest follow-up design and qualitative methods informed by grounded theory. Students were selected for participation using purposive sampling, and Participatory Action Research methods guided a collaborative approach to defining data collection procedures. Participating students attended six sessions of the curriculum, completed a questionnaire at pretest, posttest, and six-week follow-up, and participated in a focus group following completion of the curriculum. Repeated measures Multivariate Analyses of Variance (MANOVAs) were conducted to assess the effect of participation in the adapted versions of the curriculum on alcohol and marijuana use and intentions to accept alcohol and marijuana. Focus groups were analyzed using a grounded theory approach to coding and defining themes. Findings indicate that participation in the curriculum was associated with reduced alcohol use and intentions to accept alcohol among younger students. The focus group data reveals shortcomings of the curriculum for this population. Adaptation of evidence-based curricula presents a promising approach for increasing the use of evidence-based practices and ensuring that programs reflect the culture and life experiences of participants. This study explores this line of inquiry by evaluating adapted versions of Keepin’ it REAL.