Planning is pivotal to prevention success. Planning will increase the effectiveness of prevention efforts by focusing energy, ensuring that staff and other stakeholders are working toward the same goals, and providing the means for assessing and adjusting programmatic direction as needed. If done carefully, planning will also make future evaluation tasks much easier.
Substance abuse prevention practitioners at the community level engage in these planning activities:
- Establishing criteria for prioritizing risk and protective factors associated with identified problems, focusing on their importance and changeability
- Developing a community-level logic model that links the consumption patterns and consequences of problems, associated risk and protective factors, evidence-based strategies, and anticipated prevention outcomes
- Creating a comprehensive and data-driven plan that includes strategies for addressing resource and readiness gaps, anticipated evaluation activities, and how cultural competence will be addressed
- Establishing an Evidence-Based Workgroup responsible for determining whether strategies are evidence-based, soliciting proposals for community-level strategies, and reviewing and selecting those strategies.
Good planning is also crucial to sustainability. It ensures the involvement and commitment of stakeholders beyond the initial funding period, establishes the organizational structure necessary to maintain program activities over time, and greatly increases the likelihood that expected outcomes will be achieved. Whether planning happens within a formal coalition or among a more informal group of partners, decisions must reflect the ideas and input of diverse groups and individuals.
Finally, for planning efforts to be effective, it is critical that organizations revisit their logic model and evaluate their progress periodically. It may be necessary to revise the plan due to unforeseen political challenges or unanticipated cultural barriers. The “Implementation section provides a description of how to conduct utility and feasibility checks.