Making a positive IMPACT on teens for 25 years

October 30, 2014

25 years of making a difference in the community was certainly reason to celebrate for current and retired members of Middlesex-London EMS, London Police Services, Thames Valley District School Board, St. Joseph’s Health Care London and the staff of London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) trauma program. For 25 years, these individuals have been influencing the lives of teens through LHSC’s IMPACT program.

What began as a reaction by staff LHSC’s critical care trauma centre, intensive care unit, and emergency department to prevent drunk driving by teens in 1988 is still making an impact today.

“In the fall of 1988 we were seeing a lot of motor vehicle collisions involving teens, many of which were preventable,” says Gail Janus, now retired, but then the manager of LHSC’s critical care unit. “We formed IMPACT because we wanted teens to see what we saw – the consequences of dangerous behaviour.”

Originally, IMPACT™ stood for Impaired Minds Produced by Alcohol Cause Trauma and began as a multidisciplinary program to educate high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving. Students ages 15-19 are invited to take the “journey of the trauma patient” which included a demonstration of a mock resuscitation, and a tour of the LHSC’s emergency department, critical care facility, and ambulance bay.

Then, and now, the program is largely volunteer-driven with paramedics, police, and hospital staff donating their time. “Our community partners are vital to the success of this program and together we are helping our teens grow into healthy adults,” says Silvie Crawford, Vice President, Patient Centred Care, LHSC.

In the 25 years since its inception, the program has expanded its reach by providing in-school presentations to grade 11 students across London and the surrounding area. IMPACT has also evolved to include a visit to St. Joseph's Parkwood Hospital to learn about the possible life-long consequences of their decisions from real-life examples provided by several former patients of the acquired brain injury and spinal cord injury programs.

“We are proud to have reached 10,000 students in-hospital and over 22,000 students in-school. This year alone we will have a chance to positively influence over 3,500 teens,” says Jane Harrington, injury prevention specialist, LHSC.

The content has also evolved to remain relevant by focusing on the issues most important to students. “First, we added education about other forms of impairment to the program, such as illicit drug use, and, most recently, IMPACT has taken into account a broad array of topics that include binge drinking, distracted driving, self-harm, bullying and other teen-identified issues,” adds Harrington.

Children’s Health Foundation has been a proud supporter of IMPACT, most recently by funding new clicker technology that allows students to provide immediate feedback with the click of a button during in-school presentations to facilitate class discussion and optimize student participation. “Most of the issues teens face are universal, but now we can tweak our presentation in real-time to the issues most pertinent to each group. For instance, one group of grade 11 students might identify self-harm as something they are concerned about, while another group might focus on marijuana and driving,” explains Harrington.

“It is a very good feeling to know that what we started 25 years is still making a difference in the community today,” exclaims Janus. “I am immensely proud that this program is still meeting the challenges teens face.”

See LHSC's Facebook page for more photos from IMPACT's 25th anniversary celebration.

LHSC team celebrates 25 years of IMPACTLHSC team at IMPACT's 25th anniversary celebration.