Teen drinking is a persistent public health issue with social and economic consequences. Tackling it is a major challenge, particularly when it most commonly takes place in secret. Broward County (Florida) Public Schools ambitiously set out to create a social norms campaign to discourage underage alcohol use. One giant hurdle to that approach was the fact that Broward teens strongly believed underage drinking was common, thus blowing any credibility of a "norming" campaign.
Preach the dangers and downfalls of underage drinking. Attempt to scare kids straight.
Instead of lecturing and touting morals, we aimed to appeal to a key teen motivator — the drive to have control over things. Knowing that teens hate being told what to do and love being able to "have a say" in their lives, we created the Project Brain booklet with brain health information presented in a fun way. We centered the Project Brain manual around research showing that the human brain isn’t completely developed until age twenty-five. The manual offers tips on how to optimize brain health with exercise, sleep, diet and, of course, staying away from alcohol.
Project Brain was piloted in middle and high schools throughout Broward County. The manual was shared with students, Street Teams (groups of students chosen to head up outreach for Project Brain), and even installed, as posters, in bathroom stalls. A PSA contest was also held. Broward County Public Schools continues to use the manual and expand the number of schools who participate.