Youth Engagement

Youth prevention programs must be comprehensive, long-range and integrated into the school environment. Programs should increase resilience as students are given opportunities to develop their sense of security, belonging, self-identity, purpose and personal competence.

Effective school-based prevention strategies

Effective school-based prevention strategies should include:

  1. Meaningful participation – involve children and youth in the conception and implementation of programs 
  2. Peer leadership and mentoring programs – youth are more likely to accept information presented and modelled by their peers.  These programs create positive school environments by fostering change.
  3. Life skills training – offer students the opportunity to develop skills in decision-making, assertiveness, effective communication and stress management. These programs enable youth to make healthy lifestyle choices and avoid risks.

Complementary strategies aim to increase knowledge and awareness about a health topic or issue; these strategies are not effective on their own but you can use them in combination with the following strategies:

  1. Health education – students need to be aware of and understand the risks and consequences related to high risk behaviours such as tobacco use, substance misuse, unhealthy eating or physical inactivity. The information may impact lower-risk students but have less of an effect on higher risk students,  as they tend to make decisions based on feelings.
  2. Impact speakers – youth can benefit from listening to others who have experienced consequences of unhealthy choices. The impact is usually short-term.
  3. Recreational alternatives – special events, such as dances, health fairs and sporting activities provide positive alternative behaviours to those students who attend but may not foster life skills needed to cope in the real world.
  4. Avoidance of fear messaging – posters and campaigns that depict scary images and scenarios may send mixed messages to youth. They may become desensitized to the information, as it lacks credibility to them. These messages can increase the misperception that all or most youth are engaging in unhealthy behaviour.

For ideas on effective school-based prevention activities, contact your school’s public health nurse or email healthyschools@hamilton.ca.

Engagement des jeunes (DOC, 18 KB)