Our Research

The development and evaluation of the Climate Schools programs was made possible through a number of grants awarded to Professor Teesson, Dr Newton, Dr Vogl and Professor Andrews from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

At Climate Schools we believe that researching the effectiveness of our programs is very important. Results from our trials of the Climate Schools programs have been published in Australian and International journals.

Our research shows that Climate Schools courses improve student outcomes by:

  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Reducing binge drinking
  • Reducing cannabis use
  • Reducing ecstasy use
  • Reducing harms related to the use of alcohol and ecstasy
  • Reducing intentions to use ecstasy and psychostimulants
  • Increasing knowledge about alcohol and cannabis
  • Improving attitudes towards alcohol

Students and teachers have also rated the programs positively. Feedback has shown:

  • 93% of students found the cartoon stories an enjoyable and interesting way to learn
  • 93% of students thought the information in the program was easy to understand, to learn and to remember
  • 95% of teachers rated the educational quality of the program highly
  • 88% of teachers rated the program as better than other drug and alcohol education programs

More information about our research trials and results can be found in the articles detailed below.

Information about our research trials and results

  • Internet-based prevention for alcohol and cannabis use: final results of the Climate Schools course. Newton, N. C., Teesson, M., Vogl, L. E., Andrews, G. (2012). Addiction, 105, 749-759.

    Aims

    To establish the long-term efficacy of a universal internet-based alcohol and cannabis prevention programme in schools.

    Methods

    A cluster-randomized controlled trial was conducted to assess the effectiveness of Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis Course. The evidence-based course, aimed at reducing alcohol and cannabis use, is facilitated by the internet and consists of 12 novel and curriculum consistent lessons delivered over 6 months.

    Participants

    A total of 764 year 8 students (13 years) from 10 Australian secondary schools were allocated randomly to the internet-based prevention programme (n?=?397, five schools), or to their usual health classes (n?=?367, five schools).

    Measures

    Participants were assessed at baseline, immediately post, and 6 and 12 months following completion of the intervention, on measures of alcohol and cannabis knowledge, attitudes, use and related harms.

    Results

    This paper reports the final results of the intervention trial, 12 months following the completion of Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis Course. The effectiveness of the course 6 months following the intervention has been reported previously. At the 12-month follow-up, compared to the control group, students in the intervention group showed significant improvements in alcohol and cannabis knowledge, a reduction in average weekly alcohol consumption and a reduction in frequency of drinking to excess. No differences between groups were found on alcohol expectancies, cannabis attitudes or alcohol- and cannabis-related harms. The course was found to be acceptable by teachers and students as a means of delivering drug education in schools.

    Conclusions

    Internet-based prevention programs for school-age children can improve student's knowledge about alcohol and cannabis, and may also reduce alcohol use twelve months after completion.

  • Climate Schools: Alcohol module - A cross-validation of a school based prevention program for alcohol misuse. Newton, N.C., Vogl, L.E., Teesson, M., Andrews, G. (2009). Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 43, 201-207.

    Objective

    The aim of the present study was to conduct a cross-validation trial of the efficacy of a computerized school-based intervention for alcohol misuse in adolescents.

    Method

    A cluster randomized control trial was carried out. Intervention and control groups were assessed at baseline, immediately after and 6 months after the intervention. A total of 764 Year 8 students from 10 independent secondary schools in Sydney, Australia participated in the study. Half of the schools were randomly allocated to the computerized prevention programme (n=397), and half to their usual classes (n=367). The six-lesson computerized intervention was evidence and curriculum based while having a focus on harm-minimization. Knowledge, expectancies, alcohol consumption (frequency, quantity and binging), patterns of use, and harms associated with one's own use of alcohol were assessed.

    Results

    There were significant improvements in knowledge regarding alcohol use at immediate and 6 month follow up. Average weekly alcohol consumption was reduced immediately after the intervention. No differences between groups were found on alcohol expectancies, frequency of drinking to excess and harms related to alcohol use over time.

    Conclusions

    The present results support Climate Schools: alcohol module as an effective intervention in increasing alcohol knowledge and reducing alcohol use in the short term.

  • Delivering prevention for alcohol and cannabis using the internet: A cluster randomised controlled trial. Newton, N.C., Andrews, G., Teesson, M., & Vogl, L.E. (2009). Preventive Medicine, 48, 579-584.

    Objective

    To establish the efficacy of an internet based prevention program to reduce alcohol and cannabis use in adolescents.

    Method

    A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted with 764 13-year olds from ten Australian secondary schools in 2007–2008. Half the schools were randomly allocated to the computerised prevention program (n = 397), and half to their usual health classes (n = 367). Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis prevention course is facilitated by the internet and consists of novel, evidence-based, curriculum consistent lessons aimed at reducing alcohol and cannabis use. Participants were assessed at baseline, immediately post, and at six months following the intervention.

    Results

    Compared to the control group, students in the intervention group showed significant improvements in alcohol and cannabis knowledge at the end of the course and the six month follow-up. In addition, the intervention group showed a reduction in average weekly alcohol consumption and frequency of cannabis use at the six month follow-up. No differences between groups were found on alcohol expectancies, cannabis attitudes, or alcohol and cannabis related harms.

    Conclusions

    The course is acceptable, scalable and fidelity is assured. It increased knowledge regarding alcohol and cannabis, and decreased use of these drugs.

  • A computerised harm minimisation prevention program for alcohol misuse and related harms: randomised controlled trial. Vogl, L.E., G. Andrews, and M. Teesson. (2009). Addiction. 104, 564-575.

    Aims

    Hazardous alcohol use is a leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults world-wide, yet few effective prevention interventions exist. This study was the first to examine a computerized harm minimization intervention to reduce alcohol misuse and related harms in adolescents.

    Design

    Cluster randomized controlled trial of a six-session curriculum-integrated harm minimization prevention program. The intervention was delivered by computer in the form of a teenage drama, which provided education through alcohol-related scenarios to which young people could relate.

    Setting

    Organisations in Australia.

    Participants

    A total of 1466 year 8 students (13 years) from 16 high schools in Australia were allocated randomly to a computerized prevention program (n = 611, eight schools) or usual classes (n = 855, eight schools).

    Measurements

    Change in knowledge, alcohol use, alcohol-related harms and alcohol expectancies.

    Findings

    A computerized prevention program was more effective than usual classes in increasing alcohol-related knowledge of facts that would inform safer drinking choices and decreasing the positive social expectations which students believed alcohol may afford. For females it was effective in decreasing average alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harms and the frequency of drinking to excess (more than four standard drinks; 10 g ethanol). For males the behavioural effects were not significant.

    Conclusions

    A harm minimization approach is effective in educating young people about alcohol-related risks and is effective in reducing risky drinking and harms among girls. Reduction of problems among boys remains a challenge.

  • Developing the Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis Module: A Harm-Minimization, Universal Drug Prevention Program Facilitated by the Internet. Newton, N. C., Vogl, L. E., Teesson, M., & Andrews, G. (2011). Substance Use and Misuse, 46, 1654-1663.

    Abstract

    The Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis Module is a universal harm-minimization school-based prevention program for adolescents aged 13–15 years.

    The core content of the program is delivered over the Internet using cartoon storylines to engage students, and teacher-driven activities reinforce the core information.

    The program is embedded within the school health curriculum and is easy to implement with minimal teacher training required. The program was developed in 2007 through extensive collaboration with teachers, students, and health professionals (N = 24) in Sydney, Australia and has since been evaluated (N= 764). This article describes the formative research and process of planning that formed the development of the program and the evidence base underpinning the approach.

  • Developing a school-based drug prevention program to overcome barriers to effective program implementation: The CLIMATE schools: Alcohol module. Vogl, L.E., M. Teesson., Newton, N. C., & G. Andrews. (2012). Open Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2, 410-422.doi: 10.4236/ojpm.2012.23059.

    Abstract

    Although effective school-based alcohol prevention programs do exist, the overall efficacy of these programs has been compromised by implementation failure. The CLIMATE Schools: Alcohol Module was developed to overcome some of the obstacles to high fidelity program implementation. This paper details this development of the CLIMATE Schools: Alcohol Module. The development involved two stages, both of which were considered essential. The first stage, involved reviewing the literature to ensure the program was based on the most effective pedagogy and health promotion practice and the second stage involved collaborating with teachers, students and specialists in the area of alcohol and other drugs, to ensure these goals were realised. The final CLIMATE Schools: Alcohol Module consists of computer-driven harm minimisation program which is based on a social influence approach. The program consists of six lessons, each with two components. The first component involves students completing an interactive computer-based program, with the second consisting of a variety of individual, small group and class-based activities. This program was developed to provide an innovative new platform for the delivery of drug education and has proven to be both feasible and effective in the school environment. The success of this program is considered to be testament to this collaborative development approach.

  • A universal harm-minimisation approach to preventing Psychostimulant and cannabis use in adolescents: a cluster randomised controlled trial. Vogl, L., Newton, N., Champion, K., & Teesson, M. (2014). Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 9 (1), 24.

    Background

    Psychostimulants and cannabis are two of the three most commonly used illicit drugs by young Australians. As such, it is important to deliver prevention for these substances to prevent their misuse and to reduce associated harms. The present study aims to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of the universal computer-based Climate Schools: Psychostimulant and Cannabis Module.

    Methods

    A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted with 1734 Year 10 students (mean age = 15.44 years; SD = 0.41) from 21 secondary schools in Australia. Schools were randomised to receive either the six lesson computer-based Climate Schools program or their usual health classes, including drug education, over the year.

    Results

    The Climate Schools program was shown to increase knowledge of cannabis and psychostimulants and decrease pro-drug attitudes. In the short-term the program was effective in subduing the uptake and plateauing the frequency of ecstasy use, however there were no changes in meth/amphetamine use. In addition, females who received the program used cannabis significantly less frequently than students who received drug education as usual. Finally, the Climate Schools program was related to decreasing students' intentions to use meth/amphetamine and ecstasy in the future, however these effects did not last over time.

    Conclusions

    These findings provide support for the use of a harm-minimisation approach and computer technology as an innovative platform for the delivery of prevention education for illicit drugs in schools. The current study indicated that teachers and students enjoyed the program and that it is feasible to extend the successful Climate Schools model to the prevention of other drugs, namely cannabis and psychostimulants.

  • A cluster randomised controlled trial of the Climate Schools: Ecstasy and Emerging Drugs Module in Australian secondary schools: study protocol. Champion, K. E., Teesson, M., & Newton, N. C. (2013). BMC Public Health, 13 (1), 1168.

  • A systematic review of school-based alcohol and other drug prevention programs facilitated by computers or the Internet. Champion, K. E., Newton, N. C., & Barrett, E. L. (2013). Drug and Alcohol Review, 32 (2), 115-123.

    Issues

    The use of alcohol and drugs amongst young people is a serious concern and the need for effective prevention is clear. This paper identifies and describes current school-based alcohol and other drug prevention programs facilitated by computers or the Internet.

    Approach

    The Cochrane Library, PsycINFO and PubMed databases were searched in March 2012. Additional materials were obtained from reference lists of papers. Studies were included if they described an Internet- or computer-based prevention program for alcohol or other drugs delivered in schools.

    Key Findings

    Twelve trials of 10 programs were identified. Seven trials evaluated Internet-based programs and five delivered an intervention via CD-ROM. The interventions targeted alcohol, cannabis and tobacco. Data to calculate effect size and odds ratios were unavailable for three programs. Of the seven programs with available data, six achieved reductions in alcohol, cannabis or tobacco use at post intervention and/or follow up. Two interventions were associated with decreased intentions to use tobacco, and two significantly increased alcohol and drug-related knowledge.

    Conclusion

    This is the first study to review the efficacy of school-based drug and alcohol prevention programs delivered online or via computers. Findings indicate that existing computer- and Internet-based prevention programs in schools have the potential to reduce alcohol and other drug use as well as intentions to use substances in the future. These findings, together with the implementation advantages and high fidelity associated with new technology, suggest that programs facilitated by computers and the Internet offer a promising delivery method for school-based prevention.

  • Developing the Climate Schools: Ecstasy Module. A universal Internet-based drug prevention program. Newton, N. C., Teesson, M., & Newton, K. (2012). Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 44 (5), 372-380.

  • Australian school-based prevention programs for alcohol and other drugs: a systematic review. Teesson, M., Newton, N. C., & Barrett, E. L. (2012). Drug and Alcohol Review, 31 (6), 731-6.

  • The CAP intervention: a comprehensive model for drug prevention. Teesson, M., Newton, N. C., Conrod, P. J., & Andrews, G. (2011). Centrelines. 29, 6.

  • The efficacy of a computerised school based prevention program for problems with alcohol use: Climate Schools. Vogl, L. E., & Teesson, M. (2006). Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 30, 198A.

  • The Climate Schools study: a cluster randomised controlled trial of a universal Internet-based prevention program for youth substance misuse, depression and anxiety. Teesson, M., Newton, N. C., Slade, T., Chapman, C., Tonks, Z., Birrell, L., Allsop, S., McBride, N., Hides, L., Mewton, L. (2014). BMC Psychiatry, 14 (1).

    Background

    Anxiety, depressive and substance use disorders account for three quarters of the disability attributed to mental disorders and frequently co-occur. While programs for the prevention and reduction of symptoms associated with (i) substance use and (ii) mental health disorders exist, research is yet to determine if a combined approach is more effective. This paper describes the study protocol of a cluster randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the CLIMATE Schools Combined intervention, a universal approach to preventing substance use and mental health problems among adolescents.

    Methods

    Participants will consist of approximately 8400 students aged 13 to 14-years-old from 84 secondary schools in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, Australia. The schools will be cluster randomised to one of four groups; (i) CLIMATE Schools Combined intervention; (ii) CLIMATE Schools - Substance Use; (iii) CLIMATE Schools - Mental Health, or (iv) Control (Health and Physical Education as usual). The primary outcomes of the trial will be the uptake and harmful use of alcohol and other drugs, mental health symptomatology and anxiety, depression and substance use knowledge. Secondary outcomes include substance use related harms, self-efficacy to resist peer pressure, general disability, and truancy. The link between personality and substance use will also be examined.

    Discussions

    Compared to students who receive the universal CLIMATE Schools - Substance Use, or CLIMATE Schools - Mental Health or the Control condition (who received usual Health and Physical Education), we expect students who receive the CLIMATE Schools Combined intervention to show greater delays to the initiation of substance use, reductions in substance use and mental health symptoms, and increased substance use and mental health knowledge.

  • Universal Internet-based prevention for alcohol and cannabis use reduces truancy, psychological distress and moral disengagement: a cluster randomised controlled trial. Newton, N., Andrews, G., Champion, K., & Teesson, M. (2014). Preventive Medicine.

    Aims

    A universal Internet-based preventive intervention has been shown to reduce alcohol and cannabis use. The aim of this study was to examine if this program could also reduce risk-factors associated with substance use in adolescents.

    Method

    A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted in Sydney, Australia in 2007–2008 to assess the effectiveness of the Internet-based Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis course. The evidence-based course, aimed at reducing alcohol and cannabis use, consists of two sets of six lessons delivered approximately six months apart. A total of 764 students (mean 13.1 years) from 10 secondary schools were randomly allocated to receive the preventive intervention (n = 397, five schools), or their usual health classes (n = 367, five schools) over the year. Participants were assessed at baseline, immediately post, and six and twelve months following the intervention on their levels of truancy, psychological distress and moral disengagement.

    Results

    Compared to the control group, students in the intervention group showed significant reductions in truancy, psychological distress and moral disengagement up to twelve months following completion of the intervention.

    Conclusions

    These intervention effects indicate that Internet-based preventive interventions designed to prevent alcohol and cannabis use can concurrently reduce risk-factors associated with substance use in adolescents.

  • A pilot study of an online universal school-based intervention to prevent alcohol and cannabis use in the UK. Newton, N. C., Conrod, P., Rodriguez, D., & Teesson, M. (2014). BMJ Open, 4 (5).

    Objectives

    The online universal Climate Schools intervention has been found to be effective in reducing the use of alcohol and cannabis among Australian adolescents. The aim of the current study was to examine the feasibility of implementing this prevention programme in the UK.

    Design

    A pilot study examining the feasibility of the Climate Schools programme in the UK was conducted with teachers and students from Year 9 classes at two secondary schools in southeast London. Teachers were asked to implement the evidence-based Climate Schools programme over the school year with their students. The intervention consisted of two modules (each with six lessons) delivered approximately 6 months apart. Following completion of the intervention, students and teachers were asked to evaluate the programme.

    Results

    11 teachers and 222 students from two secondary schools evaluated the programme. Overall, the evaluations were extremely positive. Specifically, 85% of students said the information on alcohol and cannabis and how to stay safe was easy to understand, 84% said it was easy to learn and 80% said the online cartoon-based format was an enjoyable way to learn health theory topics. All teachers said the students were able to recall the information taught, 82% said the computer component was easy to implement and all teachers said the teacher's manual was easy to use to prepare class activities. Importantly, 82% of teachers said it was likely that they would use the programme in the future and recommend it to others.

    Conclusions

    The Internet-based universal Climate Schools prevention programme to be both feasible and acceptable to students and teachers in the UK. A full evaluation trial of the intervention is now required to examine its effectiveness in reducing alcohol and cannabis use among adolescents in the UK before implementation in the UK school system.