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What is evidence-based prevention programming and why is it important?

Evidence-based (EB) prevention programming consists of interventions and policies that have been shown to be effective through rigorous evaluations in preventing the onset and continuation of substance use and other problem behaviors. Such programming is important because it offers prevention professionals the best opportunity to build effective prevention services in communities.

Prevention is a science-based practice similar to medicine, psychology and social work. Much has been learned about brain development and the impact of substances on the brain, the causes and consequences of substance use, and, importantly, the ways to prevent first use and continuation of use and negative consequences often associated with substance misuse. Prevention science has rigorously tested and identified many effective interventions and policies that can be used in a variety of settings reaching many types of audiences, including families, children and youth in schools, and employees in workplaces and addressing many vulnerable populations.

What is the definition of evidence-based prevention?

The definition shown here from the University of Washington Evidence-Based Practice Institute captures the basic concepts— systematic processes or services shown through scientific evidence to consistently produce positive outcomes for client populations. The scientific evidence includes multiple, rigorous studies, usually two or more, that have shown improved outcomes for those who experienced the program compared to those who had not. And because we have evidence of effectiveness, implementing evidence-based prevention interventions and policies addresses the prevention ethic: DO NO HARM!

How can we use EB prevention?

EB prevention interventions and policies generally include manuals or guides that describe the intervention or policy or provide key elements regarding content of the intervention, structure, i.e., the components of the intervention or logic model, and delivery approach. The approach in delivery might include “interactive teaching” in the classroom or other methods of reaching the target population based on developmentally-based learning theory. For policies, delivery includes specific types of enforcement approaches and how the policy is communicated to those affected by the policy.

What registries are available to help in our work?

During planning for work in the community, prevention professionals often seek information from registries to identify interventions and policies that can address the particular concerns of their population. Registries feature interventions and policies that conform to the registries’ standards of evidence. They generally outline the program’s content, structure, and delivery strategies, which can help you in your planning. The following are registries that are available on-line:

— Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development

— Strengthening America’s Families

— Best Practice Portal-European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction

In addition to the registries, you can find more information on evidence-based prevention interventions at the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime International Standards on Drug Use Prevention (

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