UK Professor Receives Grant to Improve Promotion of Prescription Drugs Disposal

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 22, 2017) — Don Helme, associate professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Communication within the College of Communication and Information, along with a colleague at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, received a $50,000 joint grant from UK and Wake Forest’s Centers for Clinical and Translational Science. The grant will support their research and development of campaign message strategies to increase use of non-medical prescription drug disposal programs in Appalachian counties. Prescription drug disposal programs are an important component in helping to combat the opioid and prescription drug abuse crisis.

Helme is the principal investigator of the UK portion of the study. The study is being conducted in partnership with Mark Wolfson of the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest University.

The study seeks to identify community-focused strategies that are effective in reducing non-medical prescription drug use and increasing use of proper disposal facilities for unwanted or unused prescription medicines.

Helme and colleagues plan to utilize those strategies to develop and test messages that will encourage the disposal of these “left over” prescription drugs and hopefully prevent these medications from being used for non-medical purposes.

“The proposed project is an important first step in providing formative data that will help with our overall understanding of why disposal programs are not used and how to develop messages specifically to encourage use,” Helme said.

The award will be split between UK and Wake Forest University with $25,000 going to each institution. The study will be conducted in two counties in Kentucky and two counties in North Carolina, as the primary focus of the study is Appalachia.

The study will hold focus groups at health departments in Appalachian counties to gain input for message development, followed by community-wide surveys to test the messages. The project will last 18 months, with the goal of obtaining additional funding to implement the messages in a regional campaign to promote proper disposal of unwanted or unused prescription medications.