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J Natl Med Assoc. 2011 Sep-Oct;103(9-10):932-40.

A randomized, controlled trial of a school-based intervention to reduce violence and substance use in predominantly Latino high school students.

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  • 1Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA.



Few studies have rigorously evaluated school-based interventions to reduce violence and substance use in high school students, especially Latinos. This study assessed the effects of a school-based program on reducing violence and substance use among primarily Latino high school students.


Ninth-grade students at risk for violence and substance use were randomized to intervention or control groups. The intervention was based on an existing program developed for white and African American youth. Data on smoking, alcohol and drug use, fighting, and grades were collected at baseline and 4 and 8 months post enrollment.


There were 55 students in the control and 53 in the intervention group; 74% of controls and 78% of intervention students were Latino. There were no significant changes in fighting, smoking, or alcohol or drug use, from baseline to 8-month follow-up, between the intervention and control group. Pre and post grade point average (GPA) decreased from 2.3 at baseline to 1.8 at follow-up (p<.01) in the intervention group, with no significant between-group changes in GPA from baseline to follow-up.


This school-based program showed no reduction in violence or substance use. The findings suggest that a program targeting non-Latino youth may not be optimal for reducing violence and substance use in Latinos; greater attention to cultural appropriateness and racial/ethnic differences may be needed. There was a decrease in intervention-group GPA but no significant change compared with controls. Further studies of the impact of school-based substance use and violence prevention programs on academics, and the effectiveness of afterschool or community-based programs compared to school-based programs are needed.

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