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Prevention Epidemiology and the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF)

When implementing the Strategic Prevention Framework, practitioners rely on the epidemiology to ensure that decisions are data-driven and outcomes-focused.

Prevention efforts are more successful when practitioners use epidemiology is used to understand substance misuse and related behavioral health problems and consequences, as well as the factors that influence these problems. Identifying factors and then matching selected strategies to those factors increases the likelihood that the prevention efforts will achieve their expected outcomes.

Many practitioners are accustomed to using epidemiological data to assess prevention needs. However, epidemiological data can inform decision-making throughout four of the five steps of the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF). For example:

  • Step 1: Assess Needs. Collect and analyze epidemiological data related to patterns in substance misuse and its consequences. You may also interpret and present the findings in an epidemiological profile. Learn more about Step 1: Assess Needs.
  • Step 2: Build Capacity. Use epidemiological data to increase general awareness of critical prevention problems and engage key stakeholders. Data can also be used to mobilize resources to support prevention efforts. Learn more about Step 2: Build Capacity.
  • Step 3: Plan. Decision-makers at the state and community levels can use epidemiological data to identify and select appropriate prevention programs and strategies. Appropriate programs are those that are most likely to produce expected outcomes. Learn more about Step 3: Plan.
  • Step 5: Evaluate. Ongoing data collection and analysis can reveal changes in substance use patterns over time. By analyzing these changes, you may decide to adjust your prevention strategies. Learn more about Step 5: Evaluate.

Epidemiological Workgroups

Since data is the driving force behind the SPF planning process, the work of epidemiological workgroups is a vital resource for prevention practitioners. Almost all states, tribes, and jurisdictions have received federal funding from SAMHSA to establish epidemiological workgroups. These workgroups are collaborative groups of agencies and individuals focused on using data to inform and enhance prevention practice.

Epidemiological workgroups collect, analyze, and disseminate substance use and behavioral health data to inform and encourage data-driven decisions throughout the SPF, at both the state and community levels. These workgroups also create products, ranging from targeted and user-friendly fact sheets to extensive monitoring systems that track substance misuse and mental health outcomes at the national, state, and local levels.

Epidemiological Profiles

Epidemiological profiles are detailed reports that summarize the problems affecting a particular community or population. Epidemiological workgroups produce the profiles, and prevention planners and decision-makers can use these reports to:

  • Set priorities among populations needing services
  • Disseminate data so that stakeholders are aware of the key issues facing the populations they serve
  • Increase a community’s general awareness of the substance misuse and related behavioral health problems affecting its residents
  • Make the case for why funding and other resources are needed to address prevention priorities
  • Respond to public needs voiced by educators, funding agencies, media, and policymakers
  • Modify the composition of planning groups to reflect the demographics of a particular service area

Find completed epidemiological profiles for states and jurisdictions.

Publications and Resources

Find more information on epidemiology and data in these publications and resources.

Access more CAPT tools and other learning resources.

Last Updated: 04/05/2016