ATLAS and ATHENAATLAS is a health promotion and drug prevention program for male high school athletes. ATHENA is the version for female high school athletes. Both aim to reduce the use of performance enhancing drugs, sport supplements, alcohol and illegal drugs whilst improving nutrition and exercise behaviours. The female version also focuses on avoiding eating disorders. To date 35,000 US participants have been involved with ATLAS, and 25,000 with ATHENA.
ATLAS (Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids) and ATHENA (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives) are internationally acclaimed, evidence-based health promotion and substance abuse prevention programs for high school athletic teams. ATLAS and ATHENA were studied in randomized trials involving more than 4000 athletes through two independent grants from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health. The programs are proven to prevent desire to use and use of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances, reduce illicit drug (marijuana, narcotics, and amphetamines) intake, lower alcohol use and drunk driving, while improving healthy exercise and nutrition behaviors. The scientific results of ATLAS and ATHENA are published in major medical journals, and the programs are the educational models for the Anabolic Steroid Control Act, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States in 2005. ATLAS and ATHENA are listed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). In addition, ATLAS received Exemplary status from the U.S. Department of Education and was the only high school drug prevention program to receive this level of recognition.
In the United States, the majority of high school students participate in interscholastic athletics. ATLAS and ATHENA are gender-specific team-based programs that are easily incorporated into a sport team’s usual activities. The programs are scripted, with peers leading and coaches facilitating the interactive activities. The team meets with students divided into small groups with one peer leader per group. ATLAS has ten, 45-minute and ATHENA, eight, 45-minute sessions that are completed during usual practice times. Student-athletes participate in educational games, develop skills (goal-setting, decision making, resistance), and create and share public service campaigns. The programs are successful, in part, because student-athletes share similar goals and work together to improve their sport performance through healthy activities. It is an evaluated initiative showing positive outcomes.
The project was judged to be focused and clear and has “achieved”. It reflects a professional approach by professional project personnel that has gained support from key US agencies. It has been evaluated and shown positive outcomes. It is a robust well established and effective program that uses well proven methods to prevent performance enhancing supplements and drugs along with recreational drug use. It is well resourced and based on accepted principles of prevention.
It is target group specific and identifies a real need in prevention with its focus on sport and drugs. The potential of developing the initiative to another country based on the US work and evidence is significant for Mentor’s work although it could also be further disseminated in USA.
The award will allow ATLAS and ATHENA to be disseminated to another country with established need and local support. Mentor Scientific Advisory Network will work with the project team to select the country, the country’s partnership team (arranging the on site logistics) and pilot the programs with young athletes. ATLAS and ATHENA staff train coaches and peer leaders and the country’s partnership team, who would implement the ATLAS and ATHENA. The ATLAS and ATHENA team will provide ongoing video and teleconference support after the trainings. Pre and post survey results will be assessed. This will be the first-ever technology transfer of an evidence-based program for teen athletes to a country other than the United States, and will highlight the Mentor Award and its international scope to prevent substance use and abuse, based on scientific evidence.