Abstract: Perceived Impacts and Diffusion of Sexual Violence Prevention Messages Among Popular Opinion Leaders: Initial Findings (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

362 Perceived Impacts and Diffusion of Sexual Violence Prevention Messages Among Popular Opinion Leaders: Initial Findings

Thursday, May 30, 2019
Pacific B/C (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Katie Edwards, PHD, Associate Professor, University of New Hampshire, Durham, Durham, NH
Victoria Banyard, PHD, Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Thomas Valente, PHD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Despite decades of public health research, few rigorously evaluated sexual violence (SV) primary prevention initiatives for youth exist. One innovative, untested strategy is engaging youth as leaders in the development and implementation of SV prevention initiatives; however, we do not currently understand how best to empower youth in these efforts. Diffusion of innovation theory has been applied to many public health topics and it highlights the importance of having popular opinion leaders (POLs) as early champions of new prevention behaviors. Fields like substance abuse and sexual risk behavior prevention have used social network analysis to identify these POLs. In the current presentation, we present data on the perceived impacts and diffusion of sexual violence prevention messages among popular opinion leaders. These data come from an ongoing, CDC-funded project in which social network analysis was used to identify POLs among middle and high schools students. These POLs were part of a youth summit in the summer of 2018 which is followed by the roll-out of youth-led SV prevention working groups; the programming initiative is called Youth VIP (Voices in Prevention). In fall 2017 and spring 2018, over 2,300 youth (~20% Native American) in grades 7 to 10 in a school district in the Great Plains region of the U.S. completed baseline surveys that inquired about SV attitudes and experiences as well as surveys that assessed risk (e.g., pornography consumption) and protective (e.g., sense of social connectedness) factors for SV experiences; there are four post-summit surveys over two academic years. In this presentation, we present data from the first district wide post-test following the youth summit in which POLs’ reported their on their perceptions of the impact that the youth summit had on them. We also asked all youth in the district if they had heard about Youth VIP, and if so what, in order to measure diffusion of prevention messages. We will present the frequency with which youth POLs report being impacted by the youth summit and the extent to which all youth in the district report exposure to Youth VIP prevention messages. Finally, we will examine if closeness to a POL in one’s network is related to changes in prevention-related attitudes and behaviors. Implications for research and practice will be discussed.