Prevention Institute brings cutting-edge research, practice, and analysis to today's pressing health and safety concerns. Determined to achieve equity, health, and safety for all, to improve community environments equitably, and to serve as a focal point for primary prevention practice, Prevention Institute asks what can be done in the first place, before people get sick or injured. Read more About Us.

We take a broad, comprehensive approach to systematizing prevention as a distinct discipline, one that deeply values, draws upon, and incorporates these eight Prevention Fundamentals:

Community wisdom is the combined knowledge, assets, intuition, and skills of community members. Relying on this wisdom is essential for developing successful, sustainable strategies to improve community health and safety equitably. Specifically, it is critical that members from all segments of a community be authentically engaged both in defining questions and shaping solutions. The most lasting prevention strategies engage a range of community leaders to build on prior achievements and implement promising practices for improving health, safety, and well-being.

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Norms are "behavior shapers", and act as levers for effective prevention. Two generations ago, the norm in the U.S. was to put an infant in someone’s lap or the back seat of the car while driving. Thanks to public policies that were supported by solid data, effective education, and modified practices at institutions like hospitals and preschools, the new norm for infants in cars is much safer. New norms—whether they involve car seat safety, smoking practices, food handling procedures, or perspectives on gender and violence—encourage positive behavior, reinforce a proven prevention strategy, and result in better health outcomes. To achieve this kind of change in norms, it is vital to alter the policies that helped create the norms in the first place.

Shifts in norms around tobacco use, driving under the influence, recycling, and reduction in lead exposure confirm that altering norms is effective in improving well-being and can be accomplished relatively quickly: many of these norms-changes have taken place over a generation or less. Since norms can vary across cultural, racial/ethnic, income and other divides, delving into health inequities entails intentional action to create norms shift toward equitable health and safety outcomes. Prevention advocates can alter policies, institutional practices, and physical environments to catalyze norms change.

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We need comprehensive action to solve complex problems and achieve far-reaching gains in health and safety. The Spectrum of Prevention is a signature Prevention Institute framework that delineates the layers of action needed to accomplish community-wide improvements. Actions taken at different levels—like policy, organizational practice, and education—are mutually supportive and synergistic, and together foster broad-scale reform. Policies and organizational practices appear at the top of the Spectrum, because they are particularly important levers for comprehensive change: they establish population-wide standards; signal a shift in norms; and directly influence community environments, resources, and actions. 

For example, school violence prevention strategy has advanced in many communities, from simply teaching conflict resolution skills to creating a more supportive overall school climate. Applying a broad-based, layered strategy, many schools are also emphasizing literacy; recognizing teachers and administrators as role models and potential mentors; adopting staff-wide conflict-resolution curricula; and reviewing school policies, including unequal standards for discipline.

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Taking two steps to prevention is a way to trace the pathway from an individual’s illness or injury back to the community conditions, norms, and root factors that lead to poor health and inequality in the first place. The traditional health system trajectory in the U.S. starts with a medical condition, like a heart attack, and moves to medical interventions and drugs to treat the illness. Taking the first step to prevention identifies risk factors for that illness, such as poor diet and sedentary behavior. Taking the second step is critical: It reveals the environmental conditions that shape the factors leading to a heart attack, such as a lack of access to healthy food or safe places to be active. We call these environmental factors the community determinants of health, and by looking at them, we can find community solutions that support prevention and wellness for everyone.

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Addressing today's complex health and social issues requires an approach that integrates multiple sectors, and includes community stakeholders. Quality prevention merges the knowledge, perspectives, and tools of diverse fields in multi-sector partnerships.  These partnerships help break down silos, and foster collaborative efforts to find mutually beneficial solutions. An example is a community that is concerned about high rates of traffic-related injuries among children. A multi-sector approach would have health leaders consulting with traffic engineers, planners, law enforcement agents, automobile manufacturers, local businesses, school officials, and parents to craft a solution that prevents traffic injuries.

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The dominant narrative is that health and safety stem from personal actions, not policies and institutions. It also focuses on treatment instead of prevention. And it promotes inequities by blaming certain communities and individuals more than others. Prevention Institute seeks to widen the frame to show how community conditions shape health and safety, so that we can pursue real solutions that bring about health, safety, equity, and wellbeing for all. Shifting the narrative from individual to community, from treatment to prevention, and including the voices of all community members empowers us to say, “It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change."

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Policy refers to the rules that guide the activities of government or quasi-governmental organizations and that provide authority for the allocation of resources, including the enactment and enforcement of laws. Policies determine norms, practices, and access. Whether policies originate from the local, state, or federal level, they have the potential to achieve the broadest impact on health outcomes across a community.

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Changing the practices of key organizations, such as healthcare institutions,agencies, businesses, faith-based organizations, and schools, can affect both health and norms. By improving internal regulations and procedures, organizations can positively impact the health and safety of their members, clients, and employees, as well as the surrounding communities.

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