Newcastle researchers will examine the effectiveness of a new intervention program designed to reduce smoking and alcohol consumption among high school students.
Associate Professor John Wiggers* will lead the research supported by a $1.4 million grant announced by the National Health and Medical Research Council today. He will partner with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health and the NSW Department of Education and Training.
Associate Professor Wiggers said despite a variety of anti-smoking and anti-alcohol initiatives, people continued to misuse alcohol and tobacco, with associated illnesses and deaths remained unacceptably high in Australia.
"The younger people are when they start to use tobacco and alcohol, the greater the likelihood of dependence and lifelong negative health outcomes," Professor Wiggers said.
"The school years appear to be the ideal time to target messages to young people to discourage them from smoking and drinking alcohol, but there is very little evidence to support the success of school-based programs.
"Our program promotes the mental wellbeing of young people. We are looking at ways to build student self-esteem and equip students with the personal skills and traits to help them make well-informed choices."
The program will also focus on influences such as family, friends, school and community, which provide support for young people in responding to life events. It will connect schools with specific community support services for teenagers and focus on building teacher understanding of student mental wellbeing.
Students from 24 schools in low socio-economic status (SES) postcode areas across the Hunter New England Health region will take part in the project, which kicks off next year. They will complete web-based surveys, which will be monitored for accuracy. Students in Year 7 at the start of the research will be surveyed again when they are in Year 10.
The research project is one of 13 at the University of Newcastle supported today in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council funding.
* Associate Professor John Wiggers is Director of Hunter New England Population Health and researcher in the University of Newcastle's Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour. The Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour works in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute's (HMRI) Public Health Research Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
Click here to read the media release from the Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon and the Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Grierson.