PAD Blog: Policy Talk – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse recently released a free online learning module to help better understand thePortfolio of Canadian Standards for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention — a resource that guides teams on how they can improve their prevention work in the area of substance abuse.

I had the opportunity to go through the online learning module, and found it concise, informative, evidence-based, and interactive.

The module provides tools to help professionals in various sectors prevent youth substance abuse. It encourages the user to recognize that regardless of what sector they are working in, the work we all do as community service providers plays a role in substance abuse prevention. The module recognizes the importance of setting a strong foundation in the “youth years”.

The module also explains risk factors that youth are exposed to when growing up (ex. Conflict with the law, relationship issues, mental illness, etc.), as well as protective factors, noting the importance of minimizing the former and promoting the latter. CCSA also notes that substance abuse prevention does both of these things.

I have to admit, the discussion about risk and protective factors reminded me of Parent Action on Drugs’ Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth program, which is an evidence-based, preventative program that promotes youth resiliency.

What interested me the most in the module was the data on costs associated with substance abuse. In 2006, Canada spent almost $40 billion on substance abuse. These costs were often associated with healthcare, law enforcement, and the court system. I also found it interesting that 30% of charges in violent crimes are associated with alcohol abuse use.

However, the most surprising data for me was that for every dollar spent on substance use prevention, the government saves $15-$18 dollars. This data should be eye-opening for policymakers. Two years ago, I did a project for the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and similarly found that reducing recidivism rates (i.e. people going back into jail after they’ve been released) through promoting preventative interventions like mental health counselling, affordable housing, and employment skills workshops can also produce similar cost savings for the government.

I can’t help but think of the billions of dollars the government could save if it prioritized prevention initiatives. Policymakers need to recognize that prevention initiatives work and show results – not just in dollar terms, but also through the positive impact on society.

As the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

This blog was originally posted on the HC Link website at

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Infographic: Prom Drinking – Have you talked to your teen?

Prom is fast approaching, but did you know there are risks associated with prom?

The risks are not so much at school sanctioned events, but rather at the after party where there is the presence of alcohol, little or no adult supervision, and a lack of restrictions that can lead to risky decision making.

See more information below, and download the PDF version here.

Remember – PAD will have a donation coin box at all Ontario LCBO stores from April 24th to May 21. Be sure to donate!

promFINAL (1)

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New infographic: What’s fact and fiction about marijuana use


PAD has partnered with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) to produce an infographic on marijuana use among youth. The infographic highlights common misconceptions about marjiuana use, and contrasts those misconceptions with evidence about marijuana use.

To download the full infographic, click here.

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Webinar March 22: Emerging Trends in Tobacco Use Among Youth

Vapes, Chews & Hookah: Emerging Trends in Tobacco Use among Youth

Tuesday, 22 March 2016 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (EDT)

While student use of tobacco cigarettes has consistently and significantly decreased in the past 15 years, there are new and emerging products for smoking and tobacco intake that complicate the youth education arena. This webinar will provide information on these emerging trends in tobacco use among young people, providing an overview of the products, current legislation and examples of campaigns that are taking action in the province. We will describe the alternative products and how they relate to tobacco use among young people, specifically looking at water pipes, vapes (or e-cigarettes) and “smokeless” forms such as chew and snus, as well as the role of flavouring in creating a market among novice users. We will consider the issues surrounding youth interest in and access to these products and the challenge faced by health educators to respond to this changing landscape.

REGISTER for the webinar on Eventbrite here! Registration closes March 17th.

Click here to read presenter biographies.

Click here to order fact sheets from the Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI).


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Webinar Recap: Effective peer programming on substance use for the transition years

On March 7th 2016, Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) and HC Link hosted a webinar titled “Effective peer programming on substance use for the transitional years”. Peer education is defined as “the teaching or sharing of health information, values and behaviours between individuals with shared characteristics”.

To my knowledge, PAD has the longest standing peer education programs (in the area of substance use) in all of Canada! The numbers don’t lie: over the past 30 years, PAD’s peer education programs have reached 3000 classes, trained 10,000 peer educators, and had approximately 90,000 youth involved overall. Having done a backgrounder on peer education effectiveness before the webinar, I was excited to hear the diverse, real life experiences from our webinar presenters.

Suzanne Witt-Foley (Consultant, PAD/HC Link) and Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy (Consultant, PAD/HC Link) opened the webinar by noting that it’s important for educators to focus on ‘health literacy’, and that PAD’s Challenges, Beliefs and Changes (CBC) program has information that is balanced, accurate and promotes skills practice. Patricia did an overview of PAD’s peer education programs, recognizing that the Masonic Lodge of Ontario has provided almost 30 years of support to these programs.

Next up was a panel presentation from diverse voices that have been involved in the CBC program. Both Allison Haldenby (Guidance Counsellor, East Elgin Secondary School) and Jacky Allan (Public Health Nurse, Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health Department) emphasized the importance of a collaborative approach to coordinating a peer education in schools, and discussed how they worked with school nurses, public health units, elementary schools, high schools, and students to organize, promote and deliver the CBC program.

As a Youth Addictions Counsellor at the Canadian Mental Health Association of Muskoka Parry Sound, Brittany Cober provided an interesting mental health perspective. Brittany mentioned that she often notices the youth in peer education programs form an “automatic bond with each other” in a way that they don’t with adults, and this is what makes peer education programs so successful. Brittany was speaking anecdotally from her own personal experience, but I couldn’t help but think how similar her experience was to the research on peer education effectiveness. For example, a 2009 study on peer education found that “peer educators were…seen as very credible by the majority of the participants…with the experimental group significantly more likely to find the peer educator more credible than the control group”.

The most interesting part of this webinar was that the audience was able to hear from two students who participated in the CBC program for three years: Jack Gaudette and Kennedie Close from East Elgin Secondary. Jack shared a powerful story about how he was “pushed around” in elementary school and was worried about starting high school. However, high school wasn’t what he expected – in a good way! Being involved in the peer education program helped both Jack and Kennedie “fit in”, get involved, and have fun. Jack and Kennedie keep participating in the program each year because it’s “been a blast every year”, and I’m sure their enthusiasm motivates other students to join the program. Having helped develop PAD’s youth engagement model as part of our strategic plan, I was particularly happy to see that youth voices were represented in this webinar!

Overall, it was a great webinar that illustrated the importance of taking a collaborative, multi-sectoral approach to a preventative health intervention. With drug policy staying high on our new government’s policy agenda, I am sure PAD’s peer education programs will be even more important moving forward.

This blog was originally posted on the HC Link website

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Webinar March 7: Effective peer programming on substance use for the transition years

Peer ed Twitter poster


Providing transition-aged students with meaningful education on substance misuse continues to be a challenge. Currently, fewer students are smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using marijuana at an early age. Nonetheless, the transition from elementary to high school is still a time where these substances are introduced to students, and students continue to perceive that alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana are fairly easy to obtain [OSDUHS, 2015]. Providing transition-aged students with meaningful education on substance misuse continues to be a challenge.

This webinar will provide information on an effective school-based program that provides realistic, relevant and reliable information to students – provided by other students. Using the experience of peer education programming from Parent Action on Drugs (PAD) we will hear from educational instructors,  a public health nurse, a mental health counselor and student peer educators on their involvement in this program. The presentation will focus on how and why a program that engages students where they are at – rather than where we would like them to be – is effective and engaging for both the peer educator and their transition-aged audience.

REGISTER for the webinar on Eventbrite here! 

Download Backgrounder: Evidence Bases for Effectiveness Peer-Led Interventions 

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Recap: SFPY Training in Hamilton (February 2016)

As part of a project funded through the Canada Ontario Agreement on French Language services, PAD and Health Nexus (both members of HC Link) did a training for the Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth (SFPY) program in French in Hamilton this week.

11 participants attended the training at the Hamilton-Niagara French Community Health Centre on February 8th, 2016. The brainstorming session at the end was particularly important, as participants did a community mapping exercise to identify the best places to recruit families for the SFPY program.

The SFPY program is a 9-week, evidence-based, skill-building program for families with teenagers aged 12-16 years old. It has been translated into French through the Canada Ontario Agreement on French Languages Services. To learn more about the SFPY program, click here.

Below are some photos from the training!

Group photo




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PAD Blog Post: Harnessing Sports as a way to Decrease Substance Abuse in Youth

Harnessing Sports as a way to Decrease Substance Abuse in Youth
By Chidinma Nwakalor
Co-op student, Parent Action on Drugs

Youth involvement in sports is often seen as an avenue for positive youth development. Interestingly, the age at which participation in sports is highest among teenagers is also the age at which most teenagers will begin experimenting with substances. This, coupled with the fact that sport participation in school decreases the tendency of illicit substance use in youth, indicates an opportunity to harness sports as a way to decrease substance use among teenagers in Canada.

A recent resource created by the Canadian Center for Substance Abuse (CCSA) suggests that youth participation in sport might be a useful way to prevent illicit drug use (eg. marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens and prescription pills) among youth. However, the report shows that the relationship between sports and substance use is variable. For example, in-school sport participation under the supervision of a coach was associated with decreased substance use overall, while in-school sport participation without a coach was associated with increased alcohol use but decreased use of marijuana and other illicit drugs such as cocaine. Furthermore, out-of-school sport participation was associated with an increased tendency to use marijuana among youth. These findings suggest that youth engagement in sports is best when it is within a school environment and under the supervision of a coach.

The review also recognized that youth who participated in sports were more likely to have better self-esteem, which is related to decreased use of alcohol and other substances among youth.  Carefully designed sport programs in schools may be a good way to promote the protective effects of self-esteem for substance use in youth populations. Increasing consciousness and knowledge about the interplay of participation in sports and substance use is important to ensure that the full benefits of sport participation are realized and that the risks are reduced to a minimum.

The full resources created by the Canadian Center for Substance Use and the primary references can be found at

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Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth program – Now taking Toronto referrals

SFPY logo

The Strengthening Families for Parent’s and Youth program is starting in Toronto (Queen & Dufferin) on Tuesday February 9, 2015.

Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth is a 9 week skill-building program for families with teens 12 to 16 years old.  The program is aimed at building communication within the family and fostering teen resiliency.  In addition to the skill-building program and built into the structure of the nine weeks is that participating families will enjoy a family meal together at the beginning of each session.

Travel, child minding services and other incentives are also offered to participating families throughout the 9 weeks of program.

For more information or referrals, email or call 416-537-9346.

To learn more about the SFPY program, click here.

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PAD at the 2015 HC Link Conference – Highlights

On November 12 and 13, HC Link’s 2015 conference – Linking for Healthy Communities: Action for Change – brought together over 150 people from a variety of settings to learn and share experiences and ideas for building healthy, sustainable and resilient communities. The two-day event featured an amazing line-up of keynote speakers, panelists, workshop facilitators and story presenters that informed and inspired participants. The 2015 conference theme was creating Action for Change in communities.

PAD, being a member of HC Link, was one of the conference leads.

To see highlights of the HC Link Conference, click here.

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