Strategic Prevention Framework

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SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) is a planning process for preventing substance use and misuse.

The five steps and two guiding principles of the SPF offer prevention professionals a comprehensive process for addressing the substance misuse and related behavioral health problems facing their communities. The effectiveness of the SPF begins with a clear understanding of community needs and involves community members in all stages of the planning process.


The steps of the SPF include:

Step 1: Assess Needs: What is the problem, and how can I learn more? Step 2: Build Capacity: What do I have to work with? Step 3: Plan: What should I do and how should I do it? Step 4: Implement: How can I put my plan into action? Step 5: Evaluate: Is my plan succeeding?

The SPF also includes two guiding principles:

Cultural competence: The ability to interact effectively with members of diverse population

Sustainability: The process of achieving and maintaining long-term results

Distinctive Features of the SPF The SPF planning process has four distinctive features. The SPF is:

Data driven: Good decisions require data. The SPF is designed to help practitioners gather and use data to guide all prevention decisions—from identifying which substance misuse issues problems to address in their communities, to choosing the most appropriate ways to address those problems. Data also helps practitioners determine whether communities are making progress in meeting their prevention needs.

Dynamic: Assessment is more than just a starting point. Practitioners will return to this step again and again: as the prevention needs of their communities change, and as community capacity to address these needs evolve. Communities may also engage in activities related to multiple steps simultaneously. For example, practitioners may need to find and mobilize additional capacity to support implementation once an intervention is underway. For these reasons, the SPF is a circular, rather than a linear, model.

Focused on population-level change: Earlier prevention models often measured success by looking at individual program outcomes or changes among small groups. But effective prevention means implementing multiple strategies that address the constellation of risk and protective factors associated with substance misuse in a given community. In this way, we are more likely to create an environment that helps people support healthy decision-making.

Intended to guide prevention efforts for people of all ages: Substance misuse prevention has traditionally focused on adolescent use. The SPF challenges prevention professionals to look at substance misuse among populations that are often overlooked but at significant risk, such as young adults ages 18 to 25 and adults age 65 and older.

Reliant on a team approach: Each step of the SPF requires—and greatly benefits from—the participation of diverse community partners. The individuals and institutions you involve will change as your initiative evolves over time, but the need for prevention partners will remain constant.