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UTSA program aims to prevent substance abuse among local middle schoolers

UTSA program aims to prevent substance abuse among local middle schoolers

Dec. 4, 2019 — UTSA is working with a San Antonio middle school on the city’s West Side to provide an alcohol and substance abuse prevention intervention program designed to educate at-risk adolescents on the effects that alcohol and other illicit drugs have on the body and mind.

The UTSA Institute for Health Disparities Research has been awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to fund Project Preventing Adolescent Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

The 2018 Texas School Survey of Drugs and Alcohol Use indicated that 34% of seventh graders had used alcohol in their lifetime and almost 15% indicated having used alcohol in the past month. The rate of use is even higher among eighth graders, with 42% having ever used alcohol and 20% having used in the past month.


“Our current and past research projects reflect a demonstrated commitment to addressing health disparities in underserved communities.”

THANKAM SUNIL, Director of UTSA’s Institute for Health Disparities Research



The UTSA project will address these issues in partnership with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

“We will implement a nationally used, evidence-based intervention curriculum on a middle school campus focused on building emotional capacity for drug-free living through an interactive process of setting realistic goals, making responsible decisions, managing emotions, refusing negative peer pressure and building healthy relationships,” explained Thankam Sunil, the principal investigator and director of the UTSA institute.


Learn more about UTSA’s Institute for Health Disparities Research.
Learn more about the College of Liberal and Fine Arts.


Professor Sunil said like the IHDR’s other research projects, project PAASA will offer opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to get involved as research assistants.

“At the IHDR, our current and past research projects reflect a demonstrated commitment to addressing health disparities in underserved communities,” Sunil explained. “Our projects have given UTSA students opportunities to get hands-on experience in a formal research setting by applying their public health knowledge through internships and volunteering.”

This urban-serving research institute, housed in UTSA’s College of Liberal and Fine Arts, was established in 2010 and its primary mission is to reduce and eliminate health disparities in South Texas through integration of biomedical and sociobehavioral science approaches.

Kara Soria


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