A comparison of current practice in school-based substance use prevention programs with meta-analysis findings

Prev Sci. 2003 Mar;4(1):1-14. doi: 10.1023/a:1021777109369.


The series of seminal meta-analytic studies of school-based substance use prevention program studies conducted by the late Nancy S. Tobler and colleagues concluded that programs with content focused on social influences' knowledge, drug refusal skills, and generic competency skills and that use participatory or interactive teaching strategies were more effective than programs focused on knowledge and attitudes and favoring traditional didactic instruction. The present study compared current school practice against evidence-based standards for "effective content" and "effective delivery," derived from the Tobler findings. Respondents were the lead staff who taught substance use prevention in the 1998-1999 school year in a national sample of public and private schools that included middle school grades (N = 1,795). Results indicate that most providers (62.25%) taught effective content, but few used effective delivery (17.44%), and fewer still used both effective content and delivery (14.23%). Those who taught an evidence-based program (e.g., Life Skills Training, Project ALERT), however, were more likely to implement both effective content and delivery, as were those teachers who were recently trained in substance use prevention and were comfortable using interactive teaching methods. The findings indicate that the transfer to practice of research knowledge about school-based substance use prevention programming has been limited.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Curriculum
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Education / standards
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Program Evaluation
  • School Health Services / organization & administration*
  • School Health Services / standards
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Teaching / standards
  • United States