Protecting You/Protecting Me (PY/PM), designated as a model prevention program by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, is an innovative, five-year, universal, classroom-based alcohol use prevention curriculum, combining information dissemination and education targeted to elementary school students. The curriculum is based on the latest brain research on the effects of alcohol and the developing brain. PY/PM is intended to fill a gap in current prevention programs that have not yet incorporated the latest research on human brain development and the risks associated with exposure to alcohol before age 21. Over 20 leading expertas and groups with experience in the fields of prevention and curriculum development have reviewed the program, and it is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) developed PY/PM entirely with private funds.
The curriculum consists of 42 lessons (eight lessons each in grades 1-4 and ten in grade five) with an equal number of reinforcement activities designed to promote “ownership” of the information. Each lesson carefully integrates several standard educational objectives, including those related to health behaviors and information, personal and interpersonal skills, and identified influencing factors.
The overall goals of PY/PM are:
- To prevent or delay the onset of psychoactive substance use/abuse, especially of alcohol, by youth,
- To reduce the number of children riding with impaired (unsafe) drivers, and
- To increase the number of children who know how to protect themselves when they have no option but to ride with an impaired (unsafe) driver.
The specific objectives are:
- To increase knowledge of how the human brain develops and the negative impact of exposure to non-prescribed psychoactive substances on the brain, particularly the negative impact of alcohol on the developing brain up to age 21, among students in grades one through five;
- To maintain non-use attitudes regarding psychoactive substance use/abuse, particularly about products containing alcohol, among students in grades one through three;
- To maintain, reinforce, and increase non-use attitudes regarding future psychoactive substance use/abuse, particularly future use and abuse of products containing alcohol, among students in grades 4 and 5;
- To increase social skills, especially resistance skills and decision-making skills, among students in grades 1 through 5; and
- To increase media-awareness with regard to advertising of alcoholic beverages among students in grades 1 through 5.
During the first year, four high schools that are geographically and ethnically/racially representative of the population of Texas and are in the Peer Assistance and Leadership (PAL) statewide networking system were selected for the study. Eleven PAL students at each school and their sponsors attended a two-day training program in Austin on the implementation of the curriculum and evaluation procedures. These PAL students then delivered the curriculum to one or two classes in grades one to five in six elementary schools.
The program was evaluated by the Center for Social Work Research. A traditional experimental design with pre/post measures and a comparison group was implemented, and a hierarchical linear model approach was used for data analysis. Data collected included: (a) pre- and post-survey from PAL students delivering the curriculum, (b) pre-, post- and 6 week follow-up surveys from elementary students receiving the curriculum and from a comparison group, (c) feedback from classroom teachers observing the PAL students deliver the curriculum, and (d) PAL coordinator site visits and classroom observations.
During the first year findings from the survey administered to third through fifth graders indicated that the curriculum was successful in impacting students’ vehicle safety skills, especially as passengers in vehicles in which the driver is not alcohol-free; teaching about the brain; influencing development of social skills; and increasing awareness about media messages.