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Thiwáhe Gluwáš’akapi (TG)

​​Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Grant No.: R01DA035111
Years Funded: 2013
Principal Investigator: Nancy Whitesell, PhD, Professor (
   Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus


This project built on findings from EAST (R01DA027665) and the urgings of community advisors to move from documenting early initiation of substance use among their youth to engaging with families in their community to prevent it. Working with these advisors, we chose a prevention program with strong evidence of effectiveness in other populations (the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14) and adapted it based on cultural teachings and research findings to for youth and families on this Northern Plains reservation. We used a Multiphase Optimization Strategy design to compare adaptation components to select the best array to include in the final program, called Thiwáhe Gluwáš’akapi (sacred home in which family is made strong).

Specific Aims

  1. Develop a cultur​ally grounded, family-based early substance use prevention intervention tailored to a Northern Plains American Indian reservation. 
    • Use an evidence-based program approach to implement a proven program (Iowa Strengthening Families Program). 
    • Ground evidence-based program within American Indian culture, using local cultural teachings as the context for delivery of the intervention.
  2. Pilot the adapted program – Thiwáhe Gluwáš’akapi (TG) – to determine feasibility, refine details, and maximize fit within the community.
  3. Test the adapted program, using the principles of the Multiphase Optimization Strategy for intervention evaluation and development to determine the relative effect sizes of intervention components and inform a final TG program that balances effectiveness and efficiency.
  4. Set the stage for a randomized controlled trial of the full intervention and, eventually, the broad, sustainable implementation of TG by the tribal health administration.


Findings from the EAST study, documenting significant risk for initiation of tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol use before age 13, were shared with the Community Advisory Board. These advisors urged us to help them find ways to protect their youth. This led directly to grant funding (R01DA035111, Whitesell, PI), which supported the development of the Thiwáhe Gluwáš’akapi program.  ​​​


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