Linda Langford, Sc.D.
One common mistake is continuing to implement prevention efforts in a way that research suggests isn’t effective. Examples include delivering one-time programs that aren’t well-connected with other efforts, reaching few students with prevention efforts and providing only basic information about a problem without addressing attitudes or building skills. To be fair, change often means overcoming the objections of stakeholders (including some supervisors!) who are attached to certain “prevention traditions” and may resist efforts to innovate based on newer research. In response, prevention practitioners can benefit from adopting community organizing approaches to help build consensus and secure allies. This approach has a long history in the violence against women movement and has been adopted more recently in areas like AOD prevention and mental health promotion.
Another mistake is conflating strategies (what to change) with tactics (how to change it.) For example, it is not accurate to say that “peer education” is effective without reference to the content peers are teaching. Peers may be very effective educators for some types of content, while other material will be conveyed more effectively by student affairs professionals, law enforcement personnel, survivors or others. The same principle holds for all prevention activities. To maximize effectiveness, we recommend that planning teams first decide what changes they want to make, and then decide how to make them. In many instances, a group that starts out wanting to do a media campaign may decide that a revising a policy will have better results given their goals.