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Step 3: Plan

Step 3 of the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) helps prevention professionals form a plan for addressing priority problems and achieving prevention goals.

Strategic planning increases the effectiveness of prevention efforts by ensuring that prevention professionals select and implement the most appropriate programs and strategies for their communities. To develop a useful plan, practitioners need to:

An effective prevention plan should reflect the input of key stakeholders, including community members. Collaborative planning processes are more likely to address community needs and be sustained over time.

Prioritize Risk and Protective Factors

Every substance use problem is associated with multiple risk and protective factors. No community can address all of these factors—at least not at once. During the planning phase, you will need to decide which factors to address first. To prioritize factors, it’s helpful to consider their importance and changeability.

Importance describes how a specific risk or protective factor affects a problem. These questions can help you determine a factor’s importance:

  • How much does this factor contribute to our priority problem?
  • Is this factor relevant, given the developmental stage of our focus population?
  • Is this factor associated with other behavioral health issues?

Changeability describes a community’s capacity to influence a specific risk or protective factor. These questions can help you determine a factor’s changeability:

  • Do we have the resources and readiness to address this factor?
  • Does a suitable intervention exist to address this factor?
  • Can we produce outcomes within a reasonable timeframe?

When developing a prevention plan, it is best to prioritize risk and protective factors that are high for both importance and changeability. If no factors are high for both, the next best option is to prioritize factors with high importance and low changeability. Since factors with high importance contribute significantly to priority substance use problems, addressing these factors is more likely to make a difference. And it’s easier to increase the changeability of a factor (for example, by building capacity) than it is to increase its importance.

Select Effective Interventions

Sometimes people want to select interventions that are popular, that worked well in a different community, or that they are familiar with. These are not good reasons for selecting an intervention. It is more important that the prevention intervention effectively address the priority substance use problem and associated risk and protective factors, and that the intervention is a good fit for the broader community. When choosing appropriate prevention interventions, it is important to select programs and strategies that are:

  • Evidence-based. Evidence-based interventions have documented evidence of effectiveness. The best places to find evidence-based interventions are federal registries of model programs, such as SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP), and peer-reviewed journals, such as the American Journal of Public Health. It’s important to note, however, that these sources are not exhaustive, and they may not include interventions appropriate for all problems and/or all populations. In these cases, you must look to other credible sources of information. Since states have different guidelines for what constitutes credible evidence of effectiveness, you could start by talking to prevention experts—including your state-level evidence-based workgroup.

    Learn more about defining which interventions are evidence-based.

  • Good conceptual fit for the community. An intervention has good conceptual fit if it directly addresses one or more of the priority factors driving a specific substance use problem and has been shown to produce positive outcomes for members of the target population. To determine the conceptual fit, ask, “Will this intervention have an impact on at least one of our community’s priority risk and protective factors?”
  • Good practical fit for the community. An intervention has good practical fit if it is culturally relevant for the target population, the community has capacity to support it, and if it enhances or reinforces existing prevention activities. To determine the practical fit of an intervention, ask, “Is this intervention appropriate for our community?”

Build a Logic Model

A logic model is a visual tool that shows the logic, or rationale, behind a program or process. Like a roadmap, it tells you where you are, where you are going, and how you will get there. Prevention professionals use logic models to show connections between:

  • Problems identified by communities
  • Specific risk and protective factors in a community that are influencing or contributing to those problems
  • Planned interventions
  • The anticipated short- and long-term changes

Logic models can help you:

  • Explain why your program or intervention will succeed. By clearly laying out the tasks of development, implementation, and evaluation, a logic model can help you explain what you do and why you do it.
  • Identify gaps in reasoning. A logic models helps you identify any gaps in your reasoning or places where your assumptions might be off track. The sooner mistakes are discovered, the easier they are to correct.
  • Make evaluation and reporting easier. Developing a logic model before implementing a program or activity makes evaluation easier since it shows clear, explicit, and measurable intended outcomes.

Publications and Resources

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Last Updated: 09/08/2016