Enhancing the Relevance and Effectiveness of a Youth Gambling Prevention Program for Urban, Minority Youth: A Pilot Study of Maryland Smart Choices
Youth with problem gambling behaviors are susceptible to serious academic, behavioral, and mental health consequences including school failure, criminal involvement, and depression. Coupled with increased exposure to gambling formats, issues related to youth gambling have been deemed a serious public health issue requiring increased prevention efforts. However, the literature is limited in terms of evidence-based gambling prevention programs warranting the development of The Maryland Smart Choices Program (MD-Smart Choices), a gambling prevention program for middle and high school youth. This 3-session, 45-min program was developed for implementation in Baltimore City Public Schools, an urban and predominately African American district with specific aims to engage students, encourage positive behavior, and facilitate learning related to gambling disorder. Pre–post program participation assessments were collected from 72 students across 5 different schools. Results yielded significant increases in student awareness and knowledge following participation in MD-Smart Choices. Focus group data collected from program facilitators suggested high student engagement and participation, program feasibility, and ease of implementation. Study implications and future directions are discussed.
KeywordsProblem gambling prevention Youth gambling Program adaptation Urban youth Decision-making
MD-Smart Choices is funded by the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling supported by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene/Behavioral Health Administration. Thanks to faculty and staff at the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling and Center for School Mental Health for partnering to support the MD-Smart Choices program. Developers and coordinators of MD-Smart Choices are also deeply appreciative of the school mental health program (SMHP) clinicians and partnering schools in Baltimore City for continued implementation of and commitment to this critical gambling prevention effort.
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