The Teen Health Connection Youth Drug Free Coalition (YDFC) was awarded the Dose of Prevention Award at CADCA’s 27th National Leadership Forum this past February. The award was presented to the coalition for raising awareness of the dangers of prescription drug and over-the-counter cough medicine misuse during National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month in October 2016.
“We are very proud of this award, but also would like to take the opportunity to highlight two of our other innovative and unique initiatives – The Big Picture and the Southern States Youth Leadership Conference,” said Amber Jones, Health Educator. The coalition, started in 2014, is located in Charlotte, N.C. The Teen Health Connection YDFC community includes youth and their families living within the city of Charlotte, specifically the Central Learning Community within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, one of the largest school systems in the South with 150,000 students enrolled.
The Big Picture is a theatrical performance written and performed by teens, for teens, using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey that includes issues impacting teens today. Annually, over 3,500 people attend a performance of The Big Picture during its 4-day run. Prior to entering the performance, attendees have the opportunity to walk through a PhotoVoice gallery developed by the youth coalition members. Pictures featured in the PhotoVoice gallery highlight the need for targeted work on substance use prevention.
In addition, Teen Health Connection partnered with Youth to Youth International to host the inaugural Southern States Conference in July 2016. The Southern States Leadership Conference is a national youth-led conference that teaches teens how to be alcohol, tobacco, and drug-free and to get involved in substance use prevention work in their communities. The conference also aims to increase knowledge and awareness of the dangers of substance use and related health and safety issues that teenagers are facing today, increasing teens’ skills to create positive change in their schools and community.
The coalition also partnered with the largest media group in the southeast to bring awareness to prescription drug and over-the-counter cough medicine misuse. The project launched a comprehensive multi-media awareness campaign that was 100 percent youth-led as the teens wrote all of the public service announcements and the social media messaging. Through this, the coalition was able to reach over a million people in Charlotte about how to prevent prescription drug and over-the-counter medicine misuse. Because of these efforts, more parents are having conversations with their teens about making good choices regarding substance use and more parents are securing their prescription and over-the-counter medicine.
“Get youth involved and have them lead your efforts by empowering them to be the change agents in their community,” advises Jones to fellow coalitions. “And take advantage of the training and networking opportunities that CADCA provides so that you can learn about initiatives that work and tailor it to your community.”