SCOPE Thought Piece, Question #2: What have we learned to date in our prevention efforts that practitioners should know about?

Beth DeRicco, Ph.D.

Three key take-ways for me include:

  • Process is critical;
  • The most important thing is asking the right questions and then doing the right thing based on readiness (which is a whole other issue);
  • It is a process that takes time;

Think of the book “Nudge” – rather than making large wholesale changes in the environment and in individuals, we need to shape the environment to gently nudge individuals to more health promoting behavior, and recognize this is an incremental process that takes time.  There is almost always something effective we can do to move our particular prevention efforts forward – an understanding of community readiness and change theory is critical to appropriate action.  Thinking big picture is a manager and leader’s job, however moving the day-to-day actors in appropriate ways to accomplish important tasks is critical to creating long-term change.  Our education preparation programs do not create an effective foundation for this kind of management in higher education in particular, but also in schools.  Though research indicates that campuses supported by statewide prevention initiatives move more from a strategic focus and use increasingly effective approaches, few states, communities and campuses work together in this way.  Additionally, federal and state funding priorities do not promote long-term action in a particular way; rather they increase the focus on content so that groups must shift priorities and modalities to sustain their collaborative efforts.

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