Published Online: November 13, 2012
Published in Print: November 14, 2012, as Blogs of the Week

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| NEWS | RULES FOR ENGAGEMENT

'Red Ribbon' Group Sees Mixed Message on Drugs

"The Best Me Is Drug Free"—the Red Ribbon Campaign's main slogan—is a hard sell in states where some drugs are legal, Peggy Sapp, the founder of the 27-year-old organization, said last week.

On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington state passed measures that make recreational use of marijuana legal, although how those measures will coexist with conflicting federal laws remains to be seen.

Red Ribbon Week, celebrated annually (this year in late October), was founded in 1985 in honor of murdered U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Enrique Camarena. The campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal drug use is just one vehicle for schools and families to combat the problem, Ms. Sapp said.

"Getting people to change their behavior or to make better choices is not some simple thing. It takes repetition," she said.

But the abuse of drugs that are legal are among those her organization has the greatest challenge in preventing.

"The thing that we see we're not having any impact on is alcohol, because it's a legal drug. There's a big message there," Ms. Sapp said. "The most-abused drugs are prescription drugs," she said, which of course are legal to take, at least for the person for whom they are prescribed.

Although the fundamental objective of the Red Ribbon Campaign is the same as when the movement began, Ms. Sapp said the group is trying out new options to expand its reach and connect with today's students, particularly online.

"That's the 'stickiness' [of the message]," she said. "It really does work if you just keep passing it on."

—Nirvi Shah


| NEWS | BEYOND SCHOOL

Study Looks at How Children Drive Outbreaks of Flu

We know the basics on how to keep the flu at bay, but researchers at the University of Pittsburgh want deeper knowledge about how children spread the virus, why it happens, and whether school closures are effective at preventing an epidemic.

With the help of student volunteers from Borland Manor Elementary and North Strabane Intermediate schools in Pennsylvania's Canon-McMillan school district, the researchers were tracking children's contact patterns and other habits last week, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Each student wore a small electronic sensory proximitor, or "mote," on a lanyard between Nov. 5 and Nov. 7, which sent out a signal about every 20 seconds, recording when he or she came in contact with peers. Funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the test was designed to look at student interactions in and out of school, and how they affect the spread of influenza.

Data collected from the project—called the "Social Mixing and Respiratory Transmission in Schools," or SMART Schools, study—will allow researchers to look at what strategies are the best for controlling the spread of flu, according to a university press release.

Preliminary findings from a related study last year in the same district revealed that each child interacted, on average, with 109 other students throughout the day.

—Gina Cairney

Vol. 32, Issue 12, Page 12

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