The Evidence Portal

Learning and development activities to address sexual and substance abuse risk

Flexible activity

Learning and development activities around sexual health, and sexual and substance risk-taking. This can include learning about medically accurate and developmentally appropriate sexual health information such as sexually transmitted diseases, and disease and pregnancy prevention, sexual risk-taking and risk avoidance tactics, substances, their effects and the negative consequences associated with dependency.

Learning about sexual health and associated risks, and substances and associated risks, is particularly pertinent for young people and adolescents who are likely to be negotiating these risks. Delivery of foundational information grounds skill-building around refusal and assertiveness skills, self-efficacy skills, and responsible decision-making associated with risk avoidance.

How can it be implemented?

This content can be delivered via structured or unstructured learning, multimedia or social media platforms, interactive sessions, review sessions and through home-learning, homework and at-home practice.

Structured learning:

  • Structured learning includes lessons or educational messages that follow a protocol, plan or guide. Examples include established curriculum delivered by trained facilitators.

Unstructured learning:

  • Unstructured learning includes lessons or educational messages that do not follow a prescribed pattern or sequence. This allows facilitators to deliver content in a manner more tailored and responsive to their program participants.

Multimedia or social media platforms:

  • Educational content can be delivered via web platforms, social media platforms, audio and/or visual streaming platforms and via text messaging.

Interactive sessions:

  • Educational content can also be delivered via interactive sessions including via group discussion, group work, peer learning, modelling and/or performances.

Review sessions:

  • Review sessions that reinforce learned educational content can assist to summarise key messages and embed learning.

Homework, at-home practice and written assignments:

  • Homework, at-home practice and written assignments can also reinforce learned content.

Who is the target group?

This flexible activity has been implemented with a number of different target groups. Key characteristics include:

  • Young adults aged 18-19
  • Sexually active female adolescents
  • 6-8th grade students aged 12-15
  • Youths in non-public high schools serviced by a substance abuse prevention agency
  • 14-17 year-old male students
  • 10th grade girls from rural, low-income high schools
  • 5-6th grade students attending elementary and middle schools in neighbourhoods with higher teenage pregnancy rates
  • Sexual and gender minority youths aged 15-16
  • Students enrolled in continuation high schools
  • Adolescent girls aged 13-14

What programs conduct this activity?

  • In Media Aware (Sexual Health Program for Young Adults), lesson three of five provides medically accurate sexual health information about risky sexual behaviours and their consequences.
  • In IVRE + ER, participants are taught about the influence of substance use on the ability to use condoms and negotiate safer sex with a partner. Additionally, participants receive sexual health education including information about anatomy, sexually transmitted diseases, and disease/pregnancy prevention including abstinence, condoms and non-penetrative sexual behaviours.
  • Similarly, in the Refuse, Remove, Reasons (RRR) curriculum, students learn about forms of drug use in combination and the health consequences of substance use.
  • In Guy Talk, students learn about healthy sexuality during small and large group discussion and individual and paired activities.
  • In HEART (Health Education and Relationship Training), the program includes five modules completed on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. One module focuses on safer sex motivation and another, on knowledge regarding HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • In STAR LO, theatre pieces or vignettes impart knowledge about puberty, sex, pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease prevention.
  • In No program name: online intervention, the third of three educational sessions addresses drug use rates.
  • In Project Towards No Drug Abuse (TND), students learn about the negative consequences associated with chemical dependency including emotional, social and physical consequences.
  • In RealTeen, one of nine theory-based sessions focuses on drug facts.

What else should I consider?

Learning and development activities should take into account the age and developmental maturity of the targeted cohort. Educational materials and lessons should be age-appropriate and where relevant, culturally sensitive and appropriate.

If online or video activities are going to be implemented, service providers and participants will require access to devices and/or software to view and engage with the content.

Further resources

Last updated:

24 Nov 2022

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