Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prevention principles: in the community

As the Prevention WINS coalition starts planning youth substance abuse prevention activities under our new Drug Free Communities grant, we will be guided by information about what has proven to work.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has identified several Prevention Principles intended to help people deliver research-based prevention programs at the community level. The first four principles cover risk and protective factors.

Principle 1: Prevention programs should enhance protective factors and reverse or reduce risk factors.

Risk and protective factors differ from community to community. The Prevention WINS coalition identified the following risk factors in our community:

  • Favorable attitudes towards drug use among high school students (individual/peer domain);
  • Poor family management -- parents monitor their children less and less as the get older (family domain);
  • Youth who use are not caught and when they are very few consequences exist (community domain).
Principle 2: Prevention programs should address all forms of drug abuse . . . including underage use of legal drugs; the use of illegal drugs; and the inappropriate use of legally obtained substances.

The tested and effective prevention programs implemented by Prevention WINS over the past four years include Life Skills Training and Guiding Good Choices. Both of these programs address all forms of drug abuse. In the future, the coalition will continue to address all forms of substance abuse using environmental strategies.

Principle 3: Prevention programs should address the type of drug abuse problem in the local community.

In northeast Seattle, the top two drugs used by teenagers are alcohol and marijuana according to the Healthy Youth Survey. The coalition's action plan addresses both.

Principle 4: Prevention programs should be tailored to address risks specific to audience characteristics such as age, gender, and ethnicity.

This will especially be true as the coalition develops a social norms campaign and works on local advocacy issues as part of the DFC grant.

With these four principles in mind, community organizations are encouraged to:
  • Develop integrated, comprehensive prevention strategies rather than one-time community-based events.
  • Provide young people with structured time with adults through mentoring.
  • Increase positive opportunities, skills, and recognition through community service and other activities.
  • Communicate and enforce clear policies.
  • Organize at the neighborhood level.

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