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Hearing on "Youth Media Campaign" House Appropriations CommitteeSubcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government

Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D.
Director
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institutes of Health
Department of Health and Human Services

March 25, 1999

 

Statement for the Record

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

I am pleased to be here with my distinguished colleagues to discuss the role of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

The Campaign itself is a concerted effort by both the public and private sector to reduce drug use in the United States. It is spearheaded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and is part of a more comprehensive approach that involves prevention efforts undertaken at schools, at civic organizations, in communities, and within families.

What makes this Campaign unique is the fact that it is based on principles and objectives that have been derived from decades of scientific research. As the Director of the Institute that supports over 85% of the world's research on drug abuse and addiction, I am pleased that my colleagues at ONDCP have asked for NIDA's input in developing a strong scientific foundation for the whole Campaign.

NIDA has been and continues to be involved in the Campaign basically at two levels. As I just mentioned, NIDA-supported research played a key role in establishing the overall Campaign design principles. In February 1997, about the time the Campaign was being announced by the President, NIDA had assembled a group of prevention and communications researchers who were to provide input to us on how best to enhance NIDA's communications research portfolio. Given the expertise of those in attendance, NIDA also asked the group to develop principles that will be directly applied to the impending National Campaign to reverse drug use among youth. These research-derived principles, among other things, stated that Campaign messages should be tailored to match the age, as well as the social and psychological profile, of each of the target audiences. The principles also helped to identify critical audiences that needed to be targeted, as well as provided information on how to develop effective messages, while also presenting some core messages that prevention campaigns should include. NIDA also suggested that the Campaign utilize NIDA's "Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide," which provides a summation of principles derived from research that are shown to be effective in implementing prevention programs.

NIDA is pleased that both the prevention and drug abuse campaign research principles that our researchers suggested were used in the development of this comprehensive Campaign. The Campaign, which my colleagues have already described in detail, is being implemented in three phases and is targeted at both youths and parents. NIDA will oversee the evaluation of Phase III of the Campaign, which is scheduled to begin at the end of this summer.

It is in this third and final phase of the Campaign that NIDA will again become more intimately involved. NIDA was asked by ONDCP to evaluate the outcomes and impact of the Campaign on parents and their children concerning attitudes, knowledge and behaviors with regard to illegal drug use among youths and to measure the Campaign's impact at the community level. This request was in response to legislation which requested ONDCP to establish "a system to measure outcomes of success of the national media campaign."

A month after NIDA was asked to evaluate Phase III, we convened two groups of technical experts in program evaluation design and measurement to advise both NIDA and the ONDCP on the most potentially effective research plan and structure to successfully evaluate the impact of Phase III. Leading experts in statistical sampling, design, and measurement, as well as prevention and communications researchers, were invited to provide input.

The experts recommended that the Phase III evaluation be based on a complex research design which focuses heavily on the specific targets, messages, and content of the ONDCP Campaign, while also carefully measuring the different levels of media exposure experienced by the audience.

Based on the recommendations, NIDA developed a statement of work and a Request for Proposal (RFP), which is part of the mechanism used by the federal government to ensure that the contract is awarded through a fair and open process, and then awarded to the best qualified candidates. Through this competitive contracting process, the prime contract was awarded to the nationally known health survey research company Westat which has established subcontracts with the Annenberg School for Communication and the National Development and Research Institute (NDRI). Westat has lead responsibility for instrument development, sample design, data collection, community monitoring, data processing, report preparation and project reporting. The communication research expertise will come from the internationally recognized Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania, which developed the research-based model on which the entire evaluation is based. The drug abuse and epidemiological expertise comes from NDRI. All three of the contractors have nationally recognized experts leading various aspects of the evaluation.

The most important quality of this evaluation is the fact that it is based on models established in communications and behavioral research. The evaluation is designed to determine the extent to which changes in drug abuse-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors among parents and their children can be attributed to exposure to this media Campaign. Among other things the evaluation will measure exposure and changes over time. It will accomplish this by a multi-level data collection process. To ensure that the evaluation remains current with any changes in the direction and focus of the Campaign, NIDA and the evaluation team remain in contact with the Campaign planners.

The evaluation includes three major data collection activities. "The National Survey of Parents & Youth" will capture and provide data at six-month intervals to show how the Nation as a whole is reacting to the Campaign over the four year period. It is expected that over 60,000 people will be interviewed during this process. Each survey will contain a representative sample of the national population of four distinct groups; youth aged 9-11, 12-13, 14-18, and their parents. The interviews will be conducted in-person, as well as through the privacy of computers. State-of-the- art computer technology, which has been shown to have more reliable results in research studies, will be utilized. Among other benefits, this part of the evaluation will allow us to identify characteristics of youth that are more or less influenced by the Campaign, and study parent-child interactions over time.

"The Longitudinal Community Surveys of Parents & Youth" will provide insight into the effects of the Campaign at the community level. The surveys will be conducted in four small municipalities (populations of 50,000 to 100,000) that are part of large metropolitan media markets from each region of the country. Each community will have close to the national median income, with one of the communities including a significant representation of African-American, and another Hispanic, populations. Approximately 3000 families will be followed in this part of the evaluation to determine changes within the family in attitudes and beliefs about drug use and possibly drug use behaviors.

The third evaluation component will analyze existing long-term national monitoring mechanisms of drug use to compare new information being gleaned by the above mentioned data collection activities. The data analyses of the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) and the Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey will allow the evaluators to establish and analyze the baseline on drug-use prevalence and attitudes, and monitor long-term trends in substance abuse. These surveys collect extensive drug use data, but are not designed to capture the specific effects of the Campaign on individuals.

All of these components will be used to determine the impact of the Campaign. The evaluation will not be a pass or fail report card for the Campaign; rather we expect it will, among other things, help measure and explain changes in drug-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in both children and parents of children at the community level. Not only will we be able to look at outcome data to measure and assess changes, but we will have an improved understanding of the critical factors involved in changing people's behaviors.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify at this hearing.

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