Within the past decade, the Republic of Colombia has undergone a dramatic transformation from a traditionally drug-exporting country to an increasingly drug-consuming country. Recent research has demonstrated escalating rates of substance use by Colombian adolescents, with marked increases among female and urban youth (P?rez G?mez &Scoppetta, 2009). Colombian youth now have among the highest prevalence rates of alcohol and drug use of all South American countries (DNE, 2009), with prevalence rates of alcohol and drug use among Colombian adolescents approaching or exceeding those of European and U.S. adolescents (P?rez-G?mez &Scoppetta, 2009). Recent rates of juvenile crime, delinquency, and gang membership in Colombia have followed closely the escalation of adolescent drug use (National Police Annual Report, 2009). These findings have prompted a call for the urgent development and implementation of prevention programs, policies, and delivery systems to combat these growing social and health related problems for Colombian youth. As part of this call, the Colombian Ministry for Social Protection and Public Health is currently developing a National Drug Abuse Prevention Strategy, which is taking a scientific, evidence-based approach to developing, adapting, and implementing prevention programs and strategies developed in Colombia the U.S. The Ministry has identified Communities That Care (CTC;Hawkins et al., 2002) as the prevention service delivery system to coordinate prevention initiatives in Colombian communities. A science-based approach to prevention, such as with CTC, is predicated on valid epidemiologic assessment of risk and protective factors that serve as targets for specific preventive interventions and programming. Moreover, the need to disseminate information on community risk and protection to local stakeholders is equally as important if prevention efforts are to be effective, sustainable, and relevant to the specific needs of the community. This project investigates the validity and dissemination of comparable measures of risk and protective factors by combining data from existing, independent, large-scale research studies of adolescent drug use in Colombia and the U.S., and assessing the psychometric equivalency of these measures between the two countries. To the extent that risk and protective factors for adolescent drug use operate similarly between the two countries, the applicability of prevention programs and policies that target these risk and protective factors in U.S. and Colombian youth populations is strengthened. We additionally take a community-based participatory approach in assessing the interpretability, utility, validity, and sustainability of risk and protective factor data in Colombia by sharing thee data in a "user-friendly" format with community leaders and key stakeholders, and obtaining feedback on how to improve the structure and dissemination of these data for improved local decision making of prevention initiatives. This project takes advantage of a timely opportunity to collaboratively develop and share scientific knowledge for the prevention of adolescent drug use in both Colombian and U.S. youth populations.
The proposed research is relevant to the public health of both U.S. and Colombian adolescent populations because programs and policies for the prevention of adolescent drug use target risk and protective factors (e.g., early onset of use, family conflic, school bonding) as mechanisms for intervention. To the extent that risk and protective factors for adolescent drug use operate similarly between the two countries, the applicability of prevention programs and policies that target these risk and protective factors in U.S. and Colombian youth populations is strengthened. The project is relevant to the mission of the National Institute on Drug Abuse International Program because it fosters an international collaboration that takes advantage of independent survey research activities in each country to expand the knowledge base for the prevention of adolescent drug use.