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INSPIRE+ Showcases Innovative Solutions to Prevent Unhealthy Substance Use Designed by California Youth for Their Communities

INSPIRE+ Showcases Innovative Solutions to Prevent Unhealthy Substance Use Designed by California Youth for Their Communities

By Sarah Han, MPH and Rebecca Braun, DrPH, MPH | December 14, 2022
YTH Initiative, ETR

The INSPIRE+ project empowers and collaborates with California youth to design innovative, creative, and youth-led solutions that address unhealthy substance use and promote community healing using ETR’s Trauma-Informed Youth-Centered Health Design framework. We engage youth as co-creators and respect their knowledge, lived experience, and leadership.  

As our first round of funding comes to a close, we want to recognize and uplift the important work and insights provided by each cohort of INSPIRE+ Design Fellows. Check out, which showcases the prototypes for each innovative design solution with illustrations and descriptions! 


Through our curriculum, Design Fellows are given the space to examine existing social conditions, conduct interviews with community members, and then imagine radical new futures for their own communities. Using human-centered design and positive youth development methodologies, Design Fellows think outside the box for transformative solutions that center trauma-informed and healing-centered principles of safety, equity, relationships, empowerment, and resilience. 

INSPIRE+ is comprised of five modules: In Module 1, Design Fellows explore the context surrounding their health challenge. Using an anti-racist and healing-centered approach, we engage in conversations about the War on Drugs, affirming identities, addressing social toxins, and community strengths. We then explore how solutions can be designed at the individual, interpersonal, or institutional level.

In Module 2, we prepare Design Fellows to conduct their own design research, training them on active listening and healing-centered interviewing skills. Next, in Module 3, Design Fellows work in teams to synthesize their interview notes and generate insights to create a prototype of their proposed solution.

In Module 4, each team develops a prototype and then presents their final idea on Pitch Day to a panel of community members. In Module 5, Design Fellows take part in a closing circle, celebrate achievements, and share lessons learned.  

For an overview of our TIYCHD curriculum, check out the "Trauma-Informed Youth-Centered Health Design Fact Sheet." 

Photos of young INSPIRE participants engaging in activities like building spaghetti straw buildings and making a human knot

How to Conduct TIYCHD

Using a healing-centered approach and applying trauma-informed principles was crucial to delivering the INSPIRE+ curriculum. Over the past three cohorts, we have created safe spaces that provide both refuge and resources for youth participants. Our trained facilitators started each week with a mindfulness practice and an affirmation, thus creating space for youth to process emotions and relate to one another. In our evaluations, the youth said they felt engaged, safe, and had a sense of community from participating in the program. They also felt like their thoughts and opinions mattered, that they were valued and respected by their peers, and that they could change the social conditions that impact their community.

If you’re interested in learning how to incorporate healing-centered and trauma-informed principles in your own youth-centered health design work, check out our new resource “Tips and Tricks for Practicing Trauma-Informed Youth-Centered Health Design,” which provides activities, advice, and best practices for TIYCHD! 

Celebrating Our Achievements

The INSPIRE+ project won the 2022 Excellence in Adolescent Health Award from the Adolescent Health Initiative, a competitive award that acknowledges teams doing exceptional work in adolescent health with a particular focus on intentionally centering anti-racist practices. Additionally, INSPIRE+ Design Fellows had opportunities to share their design research and innovative prototypes with a global audience through ETR’s annual YTH Live Global conference. 

We want to uplift and thank our community partners UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Castlemont High School, Sacramento PRO Youth and Families, and the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.  Our community partners provide crucial guidance about young people’s needs, concerns, and culture! They also bring valuable insights on substance use and adolescent health and support in participant recruitment and community engagement. 

Image of INSPIRE+ partners on a zoom call

New Horizons

We are thrilled to share that ETR was recently awarded three more years of funding for the INSPIRE+ project from Elevate Youth California. Elevate Youth California is funded by the State of California’s Department of Health Care Services through the Proposition 64 Youth Education, Prevention, Early Intervention, and Treatment Account and is administered by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation. So stay tuned for more resources and announcements about INSPIRE+ in 2023! 

Sarah Han (she/her/hers) is a Youth-Centered Health Designer for the YTH Initiative of ETR where she supports research and design projects developing innovative health solutions for young people around the world. She received her Master’s in Public Health in the Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health track from the University of California, Berkeley. Sarah is passionate about how technology, design, and innovation can be leveraged to move the needle on entrenched or overlooked sexual and reproductive health issues. She can be reached

Rebecca Braun (she/her/hers) is the Lead for the YTH Initiative of ETR, designing innovative solutions for youth health and wellness using new media and technology. She holds a DrPH and MPH from the University of California, Berkeley, having worked with domestic and global health partners in academic, nonprofit, philanthropic, public, and private sectors. She can be reached at

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