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Community Health Promotion & Prevention


In October 2000, the Community Health Education Section of the San Francisco Department of Public Health was awarded a two-year strategic planning grant - Youth Peaceful Organizers Working to Enact Results (YouthPOWER) from the Federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA). This grant ended in September 2002. The main outcome of this grant is the YouthPower Report and Recommendations, a strategic plan for youth violence and substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion as well as a financial plan to carry out recommendations in the strategic plan.

In October 2002, YouthPOWER received a $100,000 Drug-Free Communities grant to utilize environmental prevention strategies to reduce alcohol and marijuana use among middle and high school-age youth in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point (BVHP). YouthPOWER has three primary goals:

  1. To increase neighborhood capacity to create an environment conducive to positive youth development.
  2. To promote positive mental health and reduce youth violence and substance use in the Bayview Hunters Point.
  3. To create a model for neighborhood/citywide planning that can be replicated and applied to other social, educational, economic, criminal justice and public health challenges.

The Drug-Free Communities project emphasizes environmental rather than individually based approaches to prevention, and recognizes and honors the central role neighborhood residents – including youth – have in creating healthy communities that effectively support and nurture young people.

YouthPOWER will utilize the Community Action Model to build community capacity by mobilizing community members and agencies to change environmental factors promoting economic and environmental inequalities that result in increased health risks such as substance abuse. Key to this model is a critical analysis identifying the underlying social, economic, and environmental forces creating the health and social inequalities that the community wants to address. The Community Action Model supports collaborative approaches and provides a framework for community members to acquire the skills and resources to investigate the health of the place they live and then plan, implement and evaluate actions that change the environment to promote and improve health.

Two Community Action Teams (CAT) will be funded through YouthPOWER. They will be composed of middle and high school-age youth who, with support and training from allies, will decide on which action they will take to effect environmental change using the Community Action Model as a planning and implementation tool. An example of the work that a CAT may undertake is to work with owners of corner stores in underserved communities to remove or reduce alcohol advertising in their stores, particularly advertising aimed at youth.

Participation by youth in CAT activities and actions will build individual assets which are protective against drug use/abuse among members such as enhancing feelings of competency and self-worth, building positive relationships with peers and adults, and providing opportunities for meaningful contributions to their community. Youth will also be supporting a longer-term process of change within San Francisco that will further the refinement and implementation of the strategic plan and help to establish youth development principles and the Community Action Model as the norm among City departments and youth serving agencies. YouthPOWER will be able to affect sustainable environmental change that will positively impact substance use patterns in San Francisco.