Logic models are visual tools that present the rationale behind a program or process. In prevention planning, practitioners use logic models to connect and communicate the multiple elements that comprise a comprehensive prevention plan. Implementing a prevention plan without a logic model is like going on a hike without a trail map; without clear markers to follow along the way, the chance that you’ll end up where you want to go is pretty slim.
That’s why many states, like Wisconsin, a Partnerships for Success 2015 Grantee, require their sub-recipient communities to develop logic models to guide their local substance use prevention efforts. However, few states have created logic models to guide their own, state-level prevention systems.
“We continually preach to our coalitions working with local communities that they must have a logic model in place to address substance use problems effectively,” explains Christine Niemuth, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Prevention Coordinator. “But then one day we stepped back and realized, ‘Wait a minute, as a state prevention team, we don’t have guiding principles to move our own work forward.’”
Dedicated to “leading by example,” Niemuth and colleagues decided it was time to take on this important project. With technical support from SAMSHA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT), they developed a logic model to ensure that the programs they were putting in place would produce the outcomes they hoped to achieve, and that all key players had a shared understanding of where they were heading.
A Diverse Planning Team
To develop the plan, Niemuth and her colleagues engaged a cadre of key stakeholders from across the state. To identify their team, they turned to the State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Committee—a long standing committee of practitioners working to prevent substance use and its consequences throughout Wisconsin. Using the Council as their starting pool, they then hand-picked a small group of experienced prevention leaders to ensure representation across geographic regions, population groups, behavioral health sectors, and professional roles.
“We focused on finding people from across the state, not just in Madison where many of us are working,” Niemuth explains. “Wisconsin is a big geographic state and there are a lot of differences between regions. It was important to put together a group of folks from both rural and urban settings so that the different populations throughout Wisconsin were represented.”
Niemuth credits the diversity of the planning team with helping them articulate the state’s commitment to reducing health disparities—that is, those differences in health linked to social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Prior to creating the model, reducing health disparities had been an implicit priority, but not one that had been clearly articulated. The process of creating the model revealed the need to make this goal explicit, and to attach “teeth” to it by also including in the model specific activities designed to achieve it.
“The make-up of the folks we brought to the room really lent itself to recognizing that we do have large disparities and differences across the state,” Niemuth explains. “I think it’s one of the reasons health disparities bubbled up to the top.”
Other Benefits of the Process
Model development forced the state to be realistic about what it would take to achieve its vision.
“States are expected to achieve long-term outcomes, particularly long-term reduction in substance use,” explains CAPT Associate Kristin Dillon, who facilitated Wisconsin’s logic model development process. “But without a clear path it’s very difficult to do so. Mapping the links between prevention activities, outcomes, and vision helped to ensure that the interventions we’re putting in place will logically lead to the outcomes we hope to achieve.”
Creating the model was also key to building consensus throughout Wisconsin’s prevention system. Once the initial development process was completed, Niemuth shared the model with the State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Committee for review and feedback. “We received a very warm reception from the Prevention Committee,” says Niemuth. “They were very much on board.”
Since then, the state has shared the model with a broader pool of prevention partners and coalitions. “The model provides a clear snapshot of what Wisconsin is trying to achieve,” says Dillon. “As such, it’s an excellent tool for fostering buy-in around common goals.”
Finally, the new logic model provides clear direction for Wisconsin’s training and technical assistance system, helping the state’s five regional prevention centers provide more consistent support to the coalitions and communities they serve, and helping to ensure that local-level efforts align with the state’s vision.
“While we don’t embrace rigidity, it is important for states and communities to all be on the same highway, driving in the same direction,” says Anu Sharma, CAPT Evaluator, who co-facilitated the logic model development process. “The logic model will help to make sure communities don’t go off in their own direction.”
Niemuth and her colleagues are excited about the model.
“I see it as being the foundation of everything we do in prevention,” says Niemuth. “It’s great to have a vision, but without a logic model, we’ll never be able to achieve it. That’s what we’ve seen in the past. [The logic model] will hold our own feet to the fire, and make sure that we take the steps needed to achieve the outcomes we’re hoping for.”
For more information, contact CAPT Coordinator Chuck Klevgaard at firstname.lastname@example.org.