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Hunter Medical Research Institute


Healthy Schools, Healthy Futures Program


Hunter, NSW



Funding Dates

May 2010 - May 2014

The issue

One of the biggest threats to a good start in life, and a concern for many parents, is the uptake of risk-taking behaviours like smoking, drinking and drug use.

Up to 53 per cent of young people under the age of 18 in the Hunter New England Region use tobacco and alcohol which can lead to lifelong health problems.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle believe the mental well-being of young people is linked to the early uptake of risk-taking behaviours and are testing the effectiveness of a resilience focused intervention to reduce such behaviours.

The project

The Healthy Schools, Healthy Futures Program,  a joint initiative of Hunter Medical Research Institute and University of Newcastle, aims to reduce the number of adolescents who smoke, use alcohol or illicit drugs by increasing resilience and mental wellbeing.

More than 14,000 students from 21 local high schools are participating in this four year research project. Baseline surveys are benchmarking current behaviours and guiding the development of intervention strategies.

The program involves implementing student wellbeing strategies into school curriculums, additional teacher training and the fostering of partnerships with local service providers.

The Impact

During 2012 and 2013 Healthy Schools Healthy Futures School Project Officers have worked closely with each school to develop their capacity to address student resilience through planning and implementing strategies customised to the unique needs of each school.

Increasing the resilience of students is being addressed across many aspects of school life including whole school activities, classroom teaching and learning, enhancing peer support, mentoring and leaderships programs, teacher training and development, hosting parent forums, partnering with community service organisations, .

The interventions focus on social skills that build resilience, including self-efficacy, empathy, problem solving, self-awareness, goal setting, communication and cooperation.

The final data collection and results of the study will be completed during 2014.


"The program is empowering students to take control of the improvement of culture within the school. They never cease to amaze me as they step into leadership roles and perform at an exceptional level."

  • Robyn Leggatt, Relieving Principal, Swansea High School

"It is clear that adolescents do not like being told no, so rather than saying don't do drugs, don't drink and don't smoke, the study focuses on building decision-making skills that will lead them to make the right choices about those behaviours."

  • John Wiggers, Associate Professor, HMRI Research Team

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