The HealthWise Project is an international research collaboration, which was initiated in 2001 between Drs. Edward Smith and Linda Caldwell from Penn State University (PSU) in the USA and Dr. Tania Vergnani (Director of the HIV/Aids Programme, UWC), and Ms. Lisa Wegner (Occupational Therapy Department, UWC). In January 2004, Prof. Alan Flisher from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town, Dr. Cathy Mathews from the South Africa Medical Research Council, and Drs. Linda Collins, John Graham, and Elias Mpofu joined the research team. The project is a five year efficacy trial, funded by U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, to evaluate the effectiveness of the HealthWise program.
HealthWise is a comprehensive, risk-reduction life skills curriculum for adolescents. The overall goals of the HealthWise curriculum are to (1) reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STIs, (2) reduce drug and alcohol abuse, and (3) increase positive use and experience of free and leisure time. The curriculum consists of twelve lessons for Grade 8 learners, and six lessons for Grade 9 learners.
Visit the website of our partners from the University of the Western Cape that describes the project (Caldwell, Smith, Wegner, Vernagni, Mpofu, Flisher & Mathews, 2004) or download an article published in the World Leisure Journal that describes the development of the project, its goals and research design.
Here are a three pictures that show the recognition of the community that positive use of leisure time is important.
Meet Xavier and Inshaaf (with a pretty important person looking on!), the youth development specialists on the project. Their job is to help the teachers teach the leisure related lessons and to connect the youth with community opportunities. They will also help youth create opportunities when none exist. You can see that in the Mitchell's Plain area, where this study is taking place, there are signs that community members see the need for leisure services and programs. Unfortunately, not many exist at this time.