The three-year program, funded by a $327,000 Australian Research Council Discovery grant and designed by Queensland University of Technology (QUT), aims to encourage teens to protect their friends.
Lead researcher Dr Lisa Buckley, from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q), said serious injuries due to transport, violence and alcohol associated risk-taking were the main causes of teenage death.
Dr Buckley, who piloted the program in Queensland, will look at whether or not mateship can stop teens from participating in risk-taking behaviours.
“After the pilot program, we saw a reduction in a number of risk-taking behaviours and in injury, including a 10 per cent drop in students injured while being violent,” she said.
“We also found students from participating schools reported a 20 per cent increase in wearing a bicycle helmet, and we saw a 15 per cent reduction in students being injured cycling, when compared to students from non-participating schools.”
Dr Buckley said in terms of changing attitudes, students who took a part in the program had a greater awareness of risk and actions they could take to reduce risk.
“For example when asked about protecting friends and reducing injury, one student said they would ‘try to talk them out of it’, while another said it was important to ‘take the peer pressure out of it’,” she said.
“Our aim with this new research is to test the theory that the message about looking out for friends is the key to the program’s effectiveness.
“As well as looking after themselves, we make them think about looking after others and keeping their friends out of harm’s way.”
The intervention program will also include providing students with basic first aid skills and working with teachers to promote a connected environment where teachers reach out to provide support.
“We know that young people who are connected to their school are more likely to have better health outcomes and be less likely to take risks,” Dr Buckley said.
“Being connected means that students feel they are part of the school, and adults in the school care about, and are supportive of them.
“Connectedness is a really important factor and has been shown to help reduce adolescents’ high levels of health risk behaviours, including alcohol use, delinquency and violence.”
The program is expected to be implemented in schools across Queensland in 2012 and involve more than 2500 students.
CARRS-Q is a member of QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.