Our five-part opioid epidemic blog series will offer communities best practices on applying prevention principles, assessing needs and community readiness, motivating the community to take action, and evaluating the impact of programs implemented. Join us every day this week to learn how communities can implement research-based prevention programs.
Part 5: Assessing the Effectiveness of Current Drug-Abuse Prevention Efforts in Your Community
Assessing prevention efforts can be challenging for a community, given limited resources and limited access to expertise in program evaluation. Many communities begin the process with a structured review of current prevention programs to determine:
- What programs are currently in place in the community?
- Were strict scientific standards used to test the programs during their development?
- Do the programs match community needs?
- Are the programs being carried out as designed?
- What percentage of at-risk youth is being reached by the program?
Another evaluation approach is to track existing data over time on drug abuse among students in school, rates of truancy, school suspensions, drug abuse arrests, and drug-related emergency room admissions. The use of the information obtained in the initial community drug abuse assessment can serve as a baseline for measuring change in long-term trends. Because the nature and extent of drug abuse problems can change with time, it is wise to periodically assess community risk and protective factors to help ensure that the programs in place appropriately address current community needs.
Communities may wish to consult with State and county prevention authorities for assistance in planning and implementation efforts. Also, federally supported publications and other resources are available, as noted in Selected Resources and References.
In assessing the impact of individual programs, it is important for communities to document how well the program is delivered and the level of intervention participants receive. For example, in assessing a school-based prevention program, key questions to be asked include:
- Have the teachers mastered the content and interactive teaching strategies needed for the selected curriculum?
- How much exposure have the students had to each content area?
- Is there an assessment component?
The community plan should guide actions for prevention over time. Once communities are mobilized, program implementation and sustainability require clear, measurable goals, long-term resources, sustained leadership, and community support to maintain momentum for preventive change. Continuing evaluations keep the community informed and allow for periodic reassessment of needs and goals.
Community Action Box
- Parents can work with others in their community to increase awareness about the local drug abuse problem and the need for research-based prevention programs.
- Educators can work with others in their school and school system to review current programs, and identify research-based prevention interventions appropriate for students.
- Community leaders can organize a community group to develop a community prevention plan, coordinate resources and activities, and support research-based prevention in all sectors of the community.
Don't forget to attend NACo's virtual town hall series on the local response to the opioid crisis.
*Content from this blog post has been extracted from the National Institute on Drug Abuse Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders; 2nd Edition.