Evidence-Based Strategies

5 Evidence Based Strategies

Evidence-based prevention strategies are practices, programs, and procedures that have proven effective through research and evaluation. The strategies discussed in the following CDC resources help to direct efforts towards approaches that have demonstrated effectiveness at reducing and preventing the incidence of:

These strategies identify individuals at high risk, intervene to reduce current health impact, and prevent impact on future generations by reducing risk factors and promoting protective factors. Further, the strategies provide a solid foundation through which local health departments (LHDs) can continue to develop and adapt approaches that address the unique needs of their communities.

Evidence Based Strategies Pyramid



Look at the results of Q23-28 in your completed SPACECAT to identify opportunities to increase consideration and use of evidence-based strategies.

  • Differentiate between evidence-based, emerging, and unsupported prevention strategies. Evidence-based approaches are recommended due to their scientific support and proven effectiveness. Studies have demonstrated that they are effective at achieving outcomes. In comparison, emerging approaches are potentially helpful but less rigorously evaluated innovations that have often been informed by research and/or endorsed by experts in the field but not yet linked to the outcome(s) they claim to achieve. Unsupported approaches have not been informed by research or have not demonstrated any desired impact on outcomes (or have concerning or negative effect).
  • Consider which risk and protective factors are for suicide, overdose, and ACEs individually, and which are shared. Shared risk and protective factors that touch these three areas are interconnected, are recognizable and impactful at all levels of the socioecological model and should be the focus of an evidence-based strategy you choose for intersection work. For example, the Communities that Care (CTC) Model involved developing local action plans address youth substance use and violence prevention, with the goal of improving protective factors related to risky behaviors and mental health. Similarly:
    • An evidence-based strategy aimed at teaching coping skills, such as Strengthening Families would address the shared risk factor of poor coping skills by providing a protective factor of conflict resolution, coping, relationship, and parenting skills.
    • An evidence-based mentoring program could provide the protective factor of connection to a caring adult, a no-cost after-school program could address the risk factor of low community connectedness and financial stress for parents, and so on.
  • Suicide, overdose, and ACEs share many complex risk and protective factors. No LHD or community can address every factor – at least not all at once. Determine which factors are important and changeable in your community, also known as the “key drivers”. Importance describes how a risk or protective factor affects a problem, while changeability describes the community’s capacity to influence a risk or protective factor.
  • Consider groups that may have unique needs related to specific risk and protective factors. These groups may include populations of focus and/or those at greatest risk, as well as those who experience health disparities. For example, families who live in rural areas may struggle to feel connected to their school because they live so far away. Individuals with unmet mental health needs may be at higher risk for poor parenting outcomes. See the Health Disparities section to assist you in understanding the needs of those in your community and engaging members in programming decisions and planning.
  • Use the Importance and Changeability Worksheet to assess the importance and changeability of shared risk and protective factors in your community. Incorporate what your data shows (see the Data & Surveillance section), what your partners think, and the community’s current narrative about each factor.
Shared Risk Factors
Shared Protective Factors
  • If you determine that the agency is ready to move forward, consider similar questions related to the community’s readiness, engaging partners and community members whenever possible.
  • Now that you have identified your community’s most important and changeable risk and protective factors and assessed your readiness to implement a new prevention strategy, it is time to find an evidence-based strategy that will be a good conceptual and practical fit for your population of focus, in the current agency and community context.
  • Use this checklist to assess whether the strategies you are finding may be a good fit.

This page is part of the SPACECAT Toolkit. It was last updated on September, 2022. To report broken links, please email ivp@naccho.org.

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