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Amping up the message about perils of pot

Winning team from public health case competition present project to Colorado Board of Health


Pictured from left are Nicholas Ellingwood, Sally Peach, Meagan Cain, Christy Ulloa, Laura Fischer and Emily Berry (not pictured, Chevaun Hammer).

By Chris Casey | University Communications

DENVER—The student team that won the Rocky Mountain Region Public Health Case Competition devised a clever way to turn up the volume on an important alert to Colorado teens: Marijuana use is dangerous.

The students, who called their cannabis-awareness project "Amped," won the 16-team regional competition last November at CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Now they're amplifying the message to a wider audience. The six-member team explained their concept to the Colorado State Board of Health on Wednesday, and in late March the CU Anschutz students will travel to Emory University in Atlanta for the Global Public Health Case Competition.

"The purpose of today's presentation was to inform the board about what we learned," said team member Meagan Cain. "It's an important health topic. They (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) chose this topic because they're looking for insights on how to handle the issue down the road."

Nick Ellingwood, a second-year MPH student in the Colorado School of Public Health, is co-founder of the regional health case competition. Ellingwood said each year the CDPHE, as an event sponsor, designates a health topic on which students from different public health disciplines are given just 24 hours to devise a solution. This year, students were asked to determine the best strategy for reducing the health and socioeconomic consequences of marijuana exposure in the state's pediatric or adolescent populations.

Members of the "Amped" team are Emily Berry, Meagan Cain, Laura Fischer, Chevaun Hammer, Sally Peach and Cristy Ulloa. They represent the ColoradoSPH, CU School of Medicine, Graduate School and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. For the win at regionals, they each receive a $750 scholarship and an all-expense-paid-trip to Emory University.

The "Amped" concept empowers youth to become effective marijuana-awareness educators of their peers. Colorado offers ample opportunities for peer mentors as about 50,000 adolescents use marijuana. Also, the "Amped" program includes an advisory board and a social media campaign—a smartphone app the team dubbed "Weed Whacker."

"The goal of our project is to reduce marijuana use among Colorado adolescents and to enhance the knowledge of perceived risks of marijuana use among adolescents," Fischer said.

Their multi-layered proposal represents a cohesive collaboration by six students who didn't know each other before the second-annual regional case competition. "And keep in mind that they were given only 24 hours to come up with a solution," Ellingwood said.

Stay tuned to see how CU Anschutz's "Amped" squad fares in the global competition in Atlanta.

Published: Feb. 19, 2015
Contact:christopher.casey@ucdenver.edu 

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