CLIMATE Schools is a web-based substance use prevention program designed to be embedded within the school health curriculum.
The CLIMATE Schools courses have lessons focused on either on alcohol, alcohol and cannabis, or cannabis and stimulant use. Other courses on mental health and stress are currently being studied. All CLIMATE Schools courses are all aimed at middle and high school students. Each topic has a set of six 40-minute lessons. Teachers can choose which topics fit within their schools’ health curriculum. Every lesson includes a 15-20 minute interactive, online lesson that’s completed individually. The content of the online lessons follows a cartoon storyline of teenagers experiencing real-life situations relating to substance use. The second part of each lesson is a manualized activity delivered by the teacher to the entire class. This activity is designed to reinforce information taught in the cartoons.
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Social Learning Theory
Delivering prevention for alcohol and cannabis using the internet: A cluster randomised controlled trial.
Summary: In this cluster-randomized controlled trial, 10 secondary schools in Australia were randomly assigned to give students the CLIMATE Schools internet-based program (5 schools), or usual drug and alcohol education classes (5 schools). Eighth-year students at the schools participated in the study (n=764). Cannabis and alcohol use, knowledge, and attitudes were assessed pre-intervention, post-intervention, 6-months, and 12-months after completion of the programs. After implementing the CLIMATE Schools program, 91% of teachers said the program fit into the syllabus and 75% said they would continue using the program. Students also liked the program, and 93% said the cartoon delivery was enjoyable. By 6-months after the intervention, students receiving the CLIMATE Schools program had greater knowledge about alcohol and cannabis. The CLIMATE Schools students also had decreased weekly alcohol consumption and cannabis use, compared to the students receiving usual health education. No differences in alcohol or cannabis attitudes were detected between students getting the CLIMATE Schools and usual health education programs.
Take Away: The CLIMATE Schools course is associated with decreased alcohol and cannabis use in secondary school students, 6-months after the intervention. The course does not change students’ attitudes about substance use.
A computerized harm minimization prevention program for alcohol misuse and related harms: Randomized controlled trial.
Summary: A cluster randomized trial of the CLIMATE Schools alcohol module was conducted in 16 secondary schools in Australia. Schools were randomly assigned to provide the web-based CLIMATE schools alcohol course, or to provide usual alcohol health education courses to all 8th-year students. Both programs used harm minimization methods. While the CLIMATE schools program included six lessons, most of the schools providing usual health education taught more than six lessons on alcohol use. Participating students (n=1,466) were assessed at baseline, post-intervention, 6-months and 12-months post-intervention. Questionnaires asked students about weekly alcohol use, knowledge, alcohol-related harms, and alcohol-related expectancies. At 6- and 12-months, female students receiving the CLIMATE Schools course had significantly smaller increases in drinks per week, fewer episodes of drinking to excess, more alcohol-expectancies and alcohol-related harms, compared to females getting usual health education. Males in both groups had equivalent increases in drinks per week, episodes of drinking to excess, and alcohol-related harms. At the 12-month follow-up, males getting CLIMATE Schools had fewer positive alcohol-related expectancies than males getting usual health education.
Take Away: For female adolescents, the CLIMATE Schools alcohol course decreases alcohol use and alcohol-related harms more than usual health education. For male adolescents, the web-based CLIMATE Schools course and traditional health education have similar effects on drinking.
Summary: The authors customized the CLIMATE Schools program to develop and test the feasibility of a stress management module. Middle school students (n=464) at six schools in Australia completed the new module. Students at two other middle schools completed only usual health education courses. Stress and coping were assessed pre-intervention, post-intervention, and at a 3-month follow-up. Overall, 69% of students completed the entire CLIMATE Schools stress management program. At all eight schools, participants reported improved knowledge about stress management, increased support-seeking behaviors, and increased well-being at the 3-month follow-up. Additionally, students in both groups reported decreased psychological distress and avoidant coping. Improvements in stress management were equivalent in the schools providing the CLIMATE Schools and the schools providing usual health education.
Take Away: Although the CLIMATE Schools program is associated with improved stress management in middle school students, preliminary results suggest that this program is not more effective than usual health education.
A universal harm-minimisation approach to preventing psychostimulant and cannabis use in adolescents: A cluster randomised controlled trial.
Summary: The efficacy of a newly developed CLIMATE Schools web-based course for cannabis and psychostimulant prevention was tested in this cluster randomized controlled trial. Twenty-one Australian secondary schools were randomly assigned to provide 10th-year students with usual health education or the CLIMATE Schools cannabis and psychostimulant (methamphetamine, amphetamine, ecstasy) course. At baseline, post-intervention, 5-months, and 10-months, 1,734 students completed questionnaires on substance use, attitudes, and intention to use. Results showed that completion of the CLIMATE Schools program was not associated with decreased overall cannabis or psychostimulant use. Female students receiving the CLIMATE Schools program used cannabis less frequently during the follow-up period than female students receiving usual health education. The CLIMATE Schools students also had lower pro-cannabis and pro-psychostimulant attitudes at 10 months. Although students in schools receiving CLIMATE Schools and usual health education had equivalent intention to use cannabis and methamphetamine/amphetamine at follow ups, students receiving CLIMATE Schools had less intention to use ecstasy at the post-intervention and 10-month follow-ups.
Take Away: The CLIMATE Schools cannabis and psychostimulant module appears to impact cannabis use in female adolescents. Completion of the program was not associated with changes in psychostimulant use.
Follow-Up of Previous Study:
Internet-based prevention for alcohol and cannabis use: Final results of the CLIMATE Schools course.
Summary: This study continued to follow-up students enrolled in the cluster randomized controlled trial described in the Newton (2009) article. Students at schools randomly assigned to receive usual health education or the web-based CLIMATE Schools course were assessed pre-intervention, post-intervention, 6-months, and 12-months after the intervention. At the 12-month follow-up, students in schools using the CLIMATE Schools course showed significant improvements in alcohol and cannabis knowledge. Additionally, these students had reductions in average weekly alcohol consumption and frequency of drinking to excess, relative to students getting usual health education. There were no differences between the two groups on alcohol expectancies, cannabis attitudes or alcohol- and cannabis-related harms.
Take Away: The Internet-based CLIMATE Schools prevention program can improve secondary school students’ knowledge about alcohol and cannabis, and may also reduce alcohol use. Reduced alcohol use appears to endure for 12-months following completing of the program.
Universal Internet-based prevention for alcohol and cannabis use reduces truancy, psychological distress and moral disengagement: A cluster randomised controlled trial.
Summary: Truancy, psychological distress, and moral disengagement are all risk factors related to substance use. In this study, the authors examined the impact of the CLIMATE Schools alcohol and cannabis course on these risk factors. Data was collected during a cluster randomized controlled trial of CLIMATE Schools (see Newton, 2009). Ten schools were randomly assigned to provide either the CLIMATE Schools program or usual health education to students in the 8th-year. Alcohol use, cannabis use, truancy, psychological distress, and moral disengagement were assessed pre-intervention, post-intervention, and at 6- and 12-month follow-ups. Although both groups had comparable levels of truancy, psychological distress, and moral disengagement immediately after completing the programs, differences were detected by the 6-month follow-up. By 6-months post-intervention, students receiving usual health education had higher levels of psychological distress compared to the students getting CLIMATE Schools. By 12-months post-intervention, students getting usual health courses also had significantly higher levels of truancy and moral disengagement.
Take Away: Compared to usual health education, the CLIMATE Schools alcohol and cannabis course is associated with decreased risk factors for substance use one-year after completing the intervention.