What is Prevention?
Good prevention programs use a structured, community-based approach to substance abuse prevention through a model that has been proven effective, such as the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) or Communities That Care (CTC) model. Prevention efforts aim to promote youth development, reduce risk-taking behaviors, build assets and resilience, and prevent problem behaviors across the individual's life span.
There are three, key prevention principles:
- Local people solve local problems best;
- People support what they help create; and
- Science matters.
Risk-focused prevention is based on a simple premise: To prevent a problem from happening, we need to identify the factors that increase the risk of that problem developing and then find ways to reduce the risks. Just as medical researchers have found risk factors for heart attacks such as diets high in fats, lack of exercise, and smoking, research has defined a set of risk factors for drug abuse.
A team of researchers at the University of Washington found that some children exposed to multiple risk factors manage to avoid behavior problems later even though they were exposed to the same risks as children who developed behavior problems. Based on the research, they identified protective factors and processes that work together to buffer children from the effects of high-risk exposure and lead to the development of healthy behaviors. View the Social Development Strategy Model.
The public health model, used for prevention of many medical problems, has four steps.
- Define the problem.
- Identify the risk and protective factors.
- Address the risk factors while enhancing the protective factors.
- Implement the strategy as designed then evaluate.
CTC is a coalition-based community prevention operating system that uses a public health approach to prevent youth problem behaviors including underage drinking, tobacco use, violence, delinquency, school dropout and substance abuse. Learn more about Communities That Care.
CMCA is a community-organizing program designed to reduce teens' (13 to 20 years of age) access to alcohol by changing community policies and practices. CMCA seeks both to limit youths' access to alcohol and to communicate a clear message to the community that underage drinking is inappropriate and unacceptable. It employs a range of social-organizing techniques to address legal, institutional, social, and health issues related to underage drinking. Learn more about CMCA.
What role does research play in prevention activities?
Risk-focused drug abuse prevention is based on the work of J. David Hawkins, Ph. D.; Richard F. Catalano, Ph. D.; and a team of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle. Beginning in the early 1980s, the group researched adolescent problem behaviors and identified risk factors for adolescent drug abuse and delinquency. Not surprisingly, they found that an interrelationship exists between adolescent drug abuse, delinquency, school dropout, teen pregnancy, and violence and were able to identify risk factors for these problems.
Evidence-based prevention is an all-encompassing term that refers to the prevention planning process as well as to the prevention strategies that we implement in Kansas.
Prevention strategies are policies, programs, and practices that promote the well-being of people and reduce the consumption of - and the problems associated with - alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
- Policy - rules, regulations, standards, or laws designed to prevent the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (e.g., 0.08 Blood Alcohol Content laws, keg registration)
- Program – structured intervention that is designed to change social, physical, fiscal, or policy conditions within a definable geographic area or for a defined population
- Practices - standard activities that are based on policy and designed to prevent substance abuse (e.g., responsible beverage server training, sobriety checks)
We try as much as possible to use Evidence-Based Strategies and Practices, that is, strategies that are based on scientific theory and principles that have been implemented and found to be effective through a formal evaluation that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
But, not all prevention strategies we implement have reached the level of scientific rigor described by science-based strategies. In Kansas, we are also engaged in implementing many "promising" prevention strategies. These strategies are based upon scientific theory and principles that have been implemented, formally evaluated, and found to produce desired outcomes in behavior, attitude and/or knowledge.
Environmental strategies fall into the categories of (1) policy adoption, (2) enforcement, (3) communication and (4) education. These strategies work to change those factors in the environment, described above, such as norms, media and availability, in order to ultimately change behavior.
Community mobilization is the key to success of environmental strategies because these strategies must be supported by a critical mass of community stakeholders in order to succeed. Like other prevention strategies, in order to be most successful, environmental strategies require a comprehensive community prevention planning process to guide their selection and implementation.