Region IV PTTC Co-Director’s Reflection - April 2020

On February 19th, Dr. Parissa Ballard, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, presented what I thought was a fascinating webinar,  sponsored by our Region IV Prevention Technology Transfer Center.  Her topic:  The Benefits of Engaging Youth in Communities: Insights and Evidence from Developmental Science

One of the things I noted in my brief introductory remarks to the webinar was that while youth engagement is a mainstay of current prevention efforts, the argument for it usually revolves around the value of this approach for a local coalition’s efforts to achieve a goal, such as passage of a local ordinance (e.g., a social host ordinance), or getting the word out about an important prevention practice (e.g., locking up medications in the home).  Many of us know from experience that youth can garner attention and have a significant voice in these kinds of efforts—such as when a well-organized group of youth come to a city or county council meeting to voice their support for passage of a public health ordinance. 

Dr. Ballard presented this argument, but she also discussed why and how youth engagement is associated with benefits for the youth themselves.  For example, Dr. Ballard and her colleagues found in their research that volunteering as a youth is associated with healthier behaviors and mental health as youth age into young adulthood (Ballard, Hoyt, & Pachucki, 2019).

For me, one of the most important takeaways from Dr. Ballard’s webinar was that when it comes to youth engagement, one size does not fit all!  The potential benefits for youth, and for coalitions, are likely to be different for very young adolescents (ages 10 to  14) than they are for middle adolescents (ages 15 to 19) and young adults (ages 20 to 24) (see Slides 20-32 of the webinar, (Suleiman, Ballard, Hoyt, & Ozer, 2019).


Click HERE to watch the webinar.



Ballard, P., Hoyt, L., & Pachucki, M. (2019). Impacts of adolescent and youth adult civic engagement on health and socioeconomic status in adulthood. Child Development, 90(4) 1138-1154.

Suleiman, A., Ballard, P., Hoyt, L., & Ozer, E. (2019). Applying a developmental lens to youth-led participatory action research: an examination and integration of existing evidence. Youth & Society, 1-28.


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