Understanding neighborhoods' impact on youth substance use and mental health outcomes in Paterson, New Jersey: Protocol for a community-based participatory research study

Ijeoma Opara, Noelle R. Leonard, Daneele Thorpe, Trace Kershaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Substance use among youth is a major public health concern. Of note, substance use among youth is increasing in prevalence, and the incidence of substance use at earlier ages is rising. Given the long-term consequences of early substance use, it is important to identify factors that increase youth vulnerability to drug use, as they may be important targets for future interventions. Objective: This study aims to use innovative methods, such as venue-based sampling, to recruit youth who are disconnected from school and use community-based participatory research to gain a better understanding of the prevalence of substance use and important correlates among youth aged between 13 and 21 years in Paterson, New Jersey, a low-income, urban community. The study will use a convergent, mixed methods design involving multiple data collection components and the analysis of a ministrative data source, designed with the strengths of complex intervention frameworks in mind. The overall aims of the study are to identify the prevalence of substance use among youth who are engaged in school and not engaged in school; to understand important antecedents and correlates of substance use; and to use this information to inform social, environmental, and culturally appropriate interventions to address substance use and its correlates among youths in a lower-resourced urban community. Methods: This study will use both qualitative and quantitative methods to address important questions. Specifically, semistructured interviews using focus group and interview methodologies will be used to assess youths' lived experiences and will account for specific details that quantitative methods may not be able to attain. In addition, quantitative methods will be used to examine direct and multilevel associations between neighborhood factors and youth substance use and mental health outcomes. Results: A previous analysis from a substance use initiative in Paterson, New Jersey found that youth who use substances such as marijuana and alcohol are more likely to have higher rates of depression and anxiety. On the basis of the research questions, this study will examine the association between neighborhood characteristics, substance use, and mental health symptoms among youth in Paterson by using quantitative and qualitative methods and will use these findings to inform the adaptation of a communityand evidence-based substance use prevention intervention for these youths. Conclusions: The findings of this study will provide an important contribution to understanding the role of socioecological factors in predicting substance use and mental health outcomes among youth in a lower-resourced, urban community. Furthermore, these findings will serve as evidence for the development of a culturally informed, community-based prevention program to address substance use disparities for youth, including those who are truant in Paterson, New Jersey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere29427
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Community
  • Mental health
  • Protocol
  • Substance use
  • Venue-based sampling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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