this project, we are working to address the need for evidence-based substance
use prevention strategies for American Indian youth by developing and
evaluating a family-based, culturally grounded prevention program.
collaboration with community members of a Northern Plains tribe, we have
selected a program with strong evidence of effectiveness across a diverse array
of other communities – the Strengthening Families Program for Families and
Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14). We have worked
with community advisors to ground SFP 10-14 within Lakota culture, enhancing
its relevance and fit for youth and families in this context. The result is the Thiwáhe Gluwáš’akapi
program (translated as sacred home where
families are made strong). We are now in the process of implementing and
rigorously evaluating Thiwáhe Gluwáš’akapi with family groups around the
program engages youth aged 10-14 along with their parents and other family
members who help parent them (e.g., grandparents, aunties, uncles) for seven
weekly meetings. Each group includes
eight to ten youth and their families.
Families begin each weekly meeting by sharing a meal together, then
participate in separate youth and parent sessions, and come together again for
a family session. Weekly meetings are
- Build on
appreciation for one another
risky behavior among adolescents
The Importance of Early Intervention
Early adolescence is a critical
period for the development of substance problems, and early use is a strong
predictor of substance use disorder later in life.
Substance use among adolescents is also associated
with a constellation of problems during adolescence that threaten successful
development and, in the extreme, put adolescents at risk of not surviving to
Early substance use is
associated with suicide ideation and attempts, early and risky sexual behavior,
driving while intoxicated, motor vehicle accidents, school failure, cognitive
deficits and alterations in brain morphology and activity, psychopathology, and
antisocial behavior (often resulting in criminal activity and incarceration).
American Indian Risk
Indian adolescents are at particular risk. Substance use among American Indians
often starts earlier compared to others in the U.S.,
includes earlier use of marijuana, and
frequently includes problematic patterns of use (e.g., bingeing).
Reducing substance abuse and other health
disparities in these communities may ultimately depend on addressing risk for
early use among youth.
The Evidence Gap
to prevent early substance use are ongoing in many American Indian communities,
but problems persist. There is very
little data on the effectiveness of prevention approaches targeting American
Indian youth. Most programs have no
evidence regarding effectiveness with this population. Communities do the best they can, choosing
programs they hope will work, but the lack of evidence hampers effective