I often get questions about community coalitions, like Prevention WINS, and our role in preventing youth substance abuse. An article appearing in a recent edition of Alcohol Research & Health (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) explains how communities engaged in preventing underage drinking are particularly effective. Following are a few excerpts about what makes for a successful coalition from Engaging Communities to Prevent Underage Drinking:
Community-based efforts offer broad potential for achieving population-level reductions in alcohol misuse among youth and young adults. A common feature of successful community strategies is reliance on local coalitions to select and fully implement preventive interventions that have been shown effective in changing factors that influence risk of you engaging in alcohol use . . .
Although coalitions are a common element of effective community-based prevention, not all coalition efforts have produced significant changes in alcohol use . . . The evaluations [of unsuccessful community efforts] indicated that . . . the mere presence of an active, well-intentioned coalition is not enough to prevent AOD [alcohol and other drugs] use. In other words, simply gathering local stakeholders and asking them to collaborate to do their best to solve local drug problems or preventing underage drinking does not produce desired changes.
Instead, the evidence suggests that in order to be successful, coalitions must ensure the following:
~ They must have clearly defined, focused, and manageable goals;
~ They must have adequate planning time;
~ Prevention decisions must be based on empirical data about what needs to change in the community and on evidence from scientifically valid students of what has worked to address those needs;
~ They must implement prevention policies, practices, and programs that have been tested and shown to be effective; and
~ They must carefully monitor prevention activities to ensure implementation quality.