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Brittany Jennings
April 22, 2022

In the United States, more than 27 percent of high school students and 10 percent of middle school students use vaping products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, substance misuse (e.g. alcohol, drugs) is a major concern among teens in the United States.

“Vaping and substance use is a major health problem for teens across the country and often there are not resources available for teens. Our goal is co-design materials with teens for teens,” said Betsy Sleath, Ph.D., faculty member in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy.

Together, a team from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy led by Sleath, three Western North Carolina community partner organizations (Rez Hope, Henderson County Hope Coalition, and BLiNK, Inc.), Alexor LLC, the Dogwood Health Trust, and two teen advisory boards in Western North Carolina, will work to create website pages and digital education materials about vaping and substance misuse to increase awareness of the growing problem and to provide health care resources for teens. Information will live on the teen-focused site “Information for the Evolving Teenager.”

“We actively work with local youth and have learned we cannot design solutions for them unless they are involved in the process. They are the future and we need to acknowledge that and help them own that reality,” said partner Kim James, M.A., member of the BLiNK, Inc. executive team.

The Dogwood Health Trust is contributing $287,544 to support the project over the next 18 months.

The website will contain information on vaping and substance misuse; prompt lists about vaping and substance use for teens to use with their health care providers, teachers or school nurses, or other trusted adults; and a series of short videos on vaping and substance use that encourage adolescents to ask questions.

“Adolescents are more likely to access health care, have a more favorable attitude about their clinicians, and share sensitive information when confidentiality is assured,” Sleath said. “However, approximately 60 percent of adolescents report not getting time alone with their clinician for a confidential discussion about substance use or vaping.”

Sleath said in her previous research related to asthma and smoking, her team discovered that a one-page asthma question prompt list/video intervention significantly increased adolescent question-asking and provider education about asthma triggers. Her team is hoping for similar results regarding vaping education.

“We want to design and create materials that can be useful, convenient, easily accessible, and potentially lifesaving for teens in North Carolina. A website is a confidential way for teens to obtain information they are looking for,” Sleath said. “We have formed an extremely strong team with our community partners in Western North Carolina who will help us recruit for our teen advisory boards and for our teen, parent, and other stakeholder focus groups. Our partners will work with us to design the materials and then disseminate them to teens in Western North Carolina. Our goal is to help prevent vaping and other substance misuse among teens.”

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