UVM & Dept. of Health Seek Young Vermonters’ Feedback on Substance Use Policies

May 22, 2019 by Jennifer Nachbur

Vermont health experts have relied on youth surveys done every two years to inform substance use prevention programs and policies. But a lot can happen in two years.

In April, the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Center on Behavior and Health at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM), and UVM Cancer Center launched a new longitudinal pilot study, called PACE Vermont (Policy and Communication Evaluation Vermont), which is engaging young people ages 12 to 25 to help close the knowledge gap in effective substance use prevention efforts. The researchers, including UVM Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychological Science Andrea Villanti, Ph.D., M.P.H., hope that the survey responses will provide a better understanding of the impact of policies and communication campaigns on young people’s substance use beliefs and behaviors and result in improved efforts and outcomes.

More than 1,000 young Vermonters have already signed up to participate in the PACE Vermont survey, which has a deadline of May 31, 2019 and aims to recruit a total of 3,000 participants. Participants can earn at least $50 in online gift cards for completing all three of the study’s surveys.

“We see great value in the ability to inform substance use prevention efforts based on what’s happening right now in the lives of teens and young adults,” said Villanti. “The study is designed to be flexible and nimble, so we can keep up with young Vermonters who live in a rapidly changing environment.”

The surveys delve into young Vermonters’ thoughts and opinions on issues that include tobacco, alcohol and substance use behaviors and beliefs, their awareness of related policies, and their exposure to/knowledge of statewide tobacco and substance use communication campaigns and prevention efforts. “PACE Vermont gets to the heart of understanding what young Vermonters think, feel and do when it comes to substance use, policies and health campaigns,” said Christie Vallencourt, who leads the PACE Vermont effort for the Health Department.

Parents need to first provide permission for their minor children to participate. They will have access to the study’s progress and key findings and can connect with other participating families on the PACE Vermont social media sites.  Individual survey responses are confidential.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine, M.D., said the findings from this study will be an innovative and valuable complement to the data from the state’s other surveys of Vermont youth. “The near real-time aspect of the PACE Vermont survey will give us timely and unique insights into what young people are thinking right now about behaviors, practices and our efforts to impact them,” said Dr. Levine. “The data will be used to guide our efforts to improve the health of Vermonters for years to come.”

(This article was adapted from news releases produced by the Vermont Department of Health Communication Office.)