When thinking about sustainability, prevention practitioners typically think of sustaining prevention programs. But best practice challenges us to think about sustainability more contextually; to consider the multiple factors that contribute to program success — such as the existence of stable prevention infrastructure, available training systems, and community support — and work toward sustaining these contributors.

Best practice also encourages us to think critically about which activities we should, or should not, sustain. The ultimate goal is to sustain prevention outcomes, not programs. Programs that produce positive outcomes should be continued. Programs that are ineffective should not be sustained.

In addition, SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework, emphasizes sustaining the prevention process itself, recognizing that practitioners will return to each step of the process, again and again, as the problems communities face continue to evolve.

Tips for increasing sustainability include:

  • Think about sustainability from the beginning. Building support, showing results, and ultimately, obtaining continued funding take time.
  • Build ownership among stakeholders. The more invested stakeholders become, the more likely they will be to support prevention activities for the long term.
  • Track outcomes. A well-designed and executed evaluation helps you determine which activities to keep and which to get rid of. It can also help demonstrate effectiveness.
  • Identify program champions willing to speak about and promote prevention efforts. Sharing positive outcomes with community members helps them become champions of your efforts.
  • Build capacity, at both the individual and systems levels. Teach people how to assess needs, build resources, and effectively plan and implement prevention programs and create the systems necessary to support these activities, over time.
  • Identify and utilize diverse resources, including human, financial, material, and technological.

From SPF: Sustainability by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Prevention Framework

Sustainability Resources