SCOPE Thought Piece, Question #1: What are the critical challenges facing the prevention field?

Linda Langford, Sc.D.

I’ll focus my response on two current challenges. One ongoing problem is scarce resources. This isn’t new, but it can seem particularly daunting in the context of the broader economic downturn and deep budget cuts on many campuses. It is more important than ever for prevention personnel to use their resources wisely and be able to demonstrate the value of their work.

A second challenge to prevention is the changing legal landscape. On the positive side, laws and requirements can sometimes provide leverage to help prevention personnel convene campus-wide teams and advocate for stronger policies, practices and programs. However, the fact that there are multiple overlapping mandates can be confusing, and simply understanding the various requirements takes time and resources. In addition, many (although not all) of the requirements pertain to response—that is, what institutions must do relative to incidents that have already occurred. The unintended result can be a decrease in attention to primary prevention, that is, how to keep incidents from happening in the first place. In addition, there is sometimes confusion between compliance and effectiveness. Effectiveness is determined by science, not by legal requirements. It is important to treat legal compliance as a minimum standard, and look to the science to inform our efforts to go beyond compliance to achieve effectiveness.

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