New Study Shows Local Teens Have Ability To Make Healthy Life Choices

Monday, April 14, 2014

New data show an increase in teens’ ability to make healthy life choices about drugs, sex, alcohol and violence. The positive findings from a randomized control trial of the Life On Point program has been published in The Journal of Adolescent and Family Health.  

Life On Point has impacted nearly 200,000 teens, since it was established in 1998, in making healthy life choices in a broad spectrum of adolescent risk behaviors, by nurturing those strengths that lead youth to thrive, said officials.

According to the study’s independent evaluator, Dr. Chris Horne, associate professor of Public Administration at UTC, the program’s youth development strategies were instrumental in helping teens develop the skills to avoid risky behavior. The strategies include: healthy choices, academic attachment, resisting peer pressure, positive social support and positive life vision.  

The findings reveal an increase in their ability to make healthy life choices along with a rise across five outcomes for Life On Point participants. The most significant improvements were in the areas of resisting peer pressure and making healthy choices about drugs, alcohol, sex and violence. Life On Point participants’ positive responses increased from 52 percent to 87 percent while the control group percentage decreased from 65 percent to 59 percent.

Life On Point groups meet weekly to promote positive youth development and consist of a cross-section of middle and high school students at 17 schools in five counties. The program is now being replicated in high risk schools in Memphis and Atlanta. The Curricula utilizes evidence-based research and strategies.   

“After 16 years of program development and 11 years of program evaluation, I am elated that The Journal of Adolescent and Family Health published these strong results," said Amy Pearson, On Point's executive director and author of Life On Point.  "Completing a randomized control trial in a school setting requires great cooperation from school administration and staff, parents and youth, the evaluator, funders, and the Life On Point facilitators.  We are grateful to all who assisted in this effort, and we look forward to replicating the study to further inform our program development.  Results represent young lives touched, many of whom have remained in On Point’s program.  

Pearson shared comments from a Life On Point graduating senior, “This group has become a family to me and I’ve learned so much.  I’m a much stronger person now than I was when I joined several years ago.” 

"The decreases in measures of positive development observed in this study's control group are consistent with previous research that reports a tendency for the values and self-perceptions that protect adolescents from choosing risky behaviors to weaken, particularly during the middle school years (Scales, Benson, Roehlkepartain, Sesma, and Van Dulmen, 2006)," said Dr. Horne.  "This study's findings provide evidence that Positive Youth Development approaches, in general, and Life On Point, specifically, can help reverse this tendency and promote youth's adoption of pro-social norms, social support, and resistance to risky behaviors."

Kimothy Warren, program director for the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program for the State of Tennessee commented on the Life On Point program, “The Tennessee Department of Health has worked closely with On Point for several risk avoidance education projects. We were pleased to review the program evaluation, which suggests that the Life On Point program is, indeed, providing students with the life skills and essential assets to successfully achieve their future life goals.”

Robert H. (Scott) Maclellan of the R.L. and K.H. Maclellan Foundation stated, “The community has a responsibility to our youth to see that they are educated and grow up with healthy lifestyles.  It is exciting to see that our local Life On Point program helps accomplish those goals, according to Dr. Christopher Horne’s research and peer reviewed article.” 

“Seventy-seven students at an urban public middle school participated in the evaluation during the 2011-2012 academic year," said Dr. Horne.  "These students were assigned to treatment (n = 39) and control groups (n =38) using random assignment, stratified to balance the groups by sex, race, and grade, with each student having an equal probability of being assigned to either group."  Students assigned to the treatment group participated in Life On Point during the fall semester, while the control group participated in programming during the spring, after the trial concluded.

This project was funded under an agreement with the State of Tennessee and the generosity of the Robert L. and Kathrina H. Maclellan Foundation. Dr. Horne’s findings are published in the January 13, 2014 edition of The Journal of Adolescent and Family Health.  To download or view the article, click on the following link: http://scholar.utc.edu/jafh/vol6/iss1/2/ 

For more about Life On Point or to get involved with On Point, call 899-9188. Connect online at: www.liveonpoint.org.  


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