in his community work with teenagers. He is most impressed with how involved communities are in building foundations for these approaches to be successful. So far, four counties in West Virginia have committed to making long-term changes to help their student population.
“We want the local community to believe that there actually are a lot of things they can do,” Kristjansson said. “We want them to really take ownership of the problem and create their own interventions or facilitate the utility of existing interventions.”
This intervention consists of healthcare professionals taking random samples in a given county; breaking the percentages down by school; and distributing the results to school officials to share with parents. From there, the community alongside government representatives determine the best course of action to help their students.
Kristjansson detailed four key domains to improve the overall lives of teenagers: Parents, families or caregivers — by increasing time spent with children; peer groups — by encouraging healthy friendships; school environment — by investing more attention to students’ needs; and leisure time — by offering a wide range of monitored activities to engage teenagers.
Kristjansson and other professionals will introduce the approach in other states and countries in upcoming months. He stressed that communities should commit their efforts to a minimum of five years to achieve long-term progress. He added that short-term grants are ineffective mainly because they address individual- rather than societal-level intervention.