Substance use and sexual risk prevention in Cape Town, South Africa: An evaluation of the HealthWise program

Edward A. Smith, Lori Ann Palen, Linda L. Caldwell, Alan J. Flisher, John W. Graham, Catherine Mathews, Lisa Wegner, Tania Vergnani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Sexual behavior and substance use represent major threats to the health and well-being of South African adolescents, especially in light of the high prevalence of HIV infection in this population. However, there is currently a lack of evidence-based school programs designed to address health risk behaviors. The current study details the evaluation of HealthWise South Africa, a leisure, life skills, and sexuality education intervention for eighth and ninth grade students. We hypothesized that, compared to controls, HealthWise participants would have delayed sexual initiation, reduced rates of current sexual activity, increased use of and perceived access to condoms, and lower rates of lifetime and past use of multiple substances. Longitudinal data were analyzed using logistic regression of multiply imputed data. Results indicate that HealthWise was effective in increasing the perception of condom availability for both genders (OR=1.6). As compared to HealthWise participants, control participants also had steeper increases in recent and heavy use of alcohol (OR=1.4 [95% C.I.=1.1-1.8], 1.6 [1.2-2.2], respectively) and recent and heavy cigarette use (OR=1.4 [1.1-1.7], 1.4 [1.1-1.8], respectively). There were also several significant gender by treatment interactions, which are discussed. These results suggest that HealthWise is a promising approach to reducing multiple health risk behaviors among the population of school-going South African adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-321
Number of pages11
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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