One Great River of Louisiana (formerly Mothers Against Drugs) has been a pioneer in developing innovative programs to promote health and prevent risk behaviors among youth in northwest Louisiana since 1981. Engaging youth in experiential education, in outdoor adventure settings, is a key program strategy; as is inclusion of youth, from culturally diverse populations.
In 1991, we combined our prevention education, parenting and wilderness experience programs and established One Great River. We have operated under the One Great River name since that time.
In 1998, One Great River won the competitive, National Exemplary Prevention Program Award, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This award recognized One Great River as being among the most promising prevention programs in our nation.
In the subsequent decade, One Great River was engaged in developing coalition-based approaches and pioneered the use of technology use in prevention, such as teleconferencing to transfer knowledge from prevention research science to practitioners in schools and communities. Two project examples were: the National Teleconference Prevention Trial, conducted in partnership with the University of Southern California, and a local obesity prevention project, the Health Trekker Challenge, which used Fit Bits to collect outcomes data from youth participants.
Over the years, we have continued to “fine-tune” the One Great River program and have achieved consistent positive results. Outcomes data show that One Great River youth participants adopt active lifestyles, healthy diet, avoid risk behaviors, such as tobacco use, and make a successful transition from school-to-work and school-to-college.
A longitudinal study conducted in 2005 by Bach Harrison, LLC, showed that the adoption of active, healthy life styles continued among One Great River project alumnae into their young adult years, including satisfying, positive family relationships and friendships.
Pre and posttest fitness assessments of participants in the pilot One Great River Health Trekker Challenge, conducted by Louisiana State University Shreveport’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Science, demonstrated that youth participants decreased body fat and increased lean muscle tissue, aerobic capacity and muscle strength.
Current Project: Team One Great River
In 2020, due to the COVID Pandemic, One Great River project activities were forced into hibernation and we stayed there until the late fall of 2021.
Hibernation provided One Great River with the opportunity to reflect on how to best serve youth, especially in post-COVID times.
We re-designed project strategies to be more accessible, more cost effective and responsive to current youth problems and needs caused by the pandemic, such as isolation from peers, a decrease in opportunities for social skill development, an increase in cultural divides, a disconnect from nature, and as studies show, an increase in anxiety and stress leading to risk behaviors, such as vaping marijuana.
The new One Great River project, titled Team One Great River, launched in 2022, has four related components: Collective Impact, Belonging, Healthy Living and Mindfulness.
The One Great River mission remains the same: to promote health and prevent risk behaviors among children and youth.