Action Civics to Promote Health: Testing the Causal Effects of a Civic Engagement Intervention on Health and Wellbeing among Disadvantaged Youth

Project Summary: 

The researchers are conducting a randomized controlled trial evaluating an “action civics" program – Generation Citizen (GC) –  that offers a school-based civic engagement intervention. The researchers are testing the causal effects of GC on (1) changes in civic engagement and sense of community and (2) subsequent health and wellbeing among disadvantaged middle and high school students. They are also testing whether the relations between GC and health and wellbeing depend on (a) adolescents’ background characteristics, (b) experiences in GC, and (c) experiences in society, and if psychological and social mechanisms (psychological empowerment, meaningful contribution, social connectedness, and civic readiness) explain relations between participating in GC and health and wellbeing outcomes. Evidence generated from this study will inform how best to implement policies and interventions to support both civic development and health among disadvantaged adolescents.


The researchers are using a randomized controlled trial design, assigning treatment status at the school level (N=50) and reaching more than 1,500 students. Multi-level multivariable regression models are used to test the effects of GC participation on civic engagement and sense of community; to establish causal relations between GC participation and mental, physical, social and behavioral wellbeing; and to explore whether the relations between GC and health and wellbeing depend on moderators. Structural equation modeling is used to identify how psychological and social mechanisms explain relations between GC and health and wellbeing outcomes.

Principal Investigators: 

Parissa Ballard, PhD, MA

Alison Cohen, PhD, MPH

Grant Start Date: 
May 2020
Award Amount & Duration: 

$415,288 & 36 months

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