Environmental strategies are prevention efforts aimed at changing or influencing community standards, institutions, structures or attitudes that shape individuals’ behaviors. While individual approaches focus on helping people develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to change their behavior, environmental approaches focus on creating an environment that makes it easier for people to act in healthy ways.
But what does it take to implement an environmental strategy effectively? How do you know a community is ready to support new legislation or to enforce existing laws? How do you select the right approach? And how do you involve the range of partners needed to produce broad and lasting change?
To prepare practitioners to address these and related questions, the West Resource Team (RT) of SAMSHA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies hosted a series of five webinars on effective environmental prevention strategies. As Michelle Frye-Spray, associate coordinator of the West RT, explains, “Environmental strategies are a key part of the ongoing [prevention] picture, so it’s important that people understand what they are and how they work.”
The webinars followed a logical progression. The first, Introduction to Environmental Strategies, made the case for environmental change and the power of environmental strategies to prevent substance use and related behavioral health problems. Participants were encouraged to consider the behavioral and social norms that shape attitudes toward substance use in their communities and identify strategies that would be most effective in changing these norms.
Subsequent webinars focused on specific prevention strategies. Social Host Ordinances examined local laws that hold an individual accountable for allowing underage drinking to occur on a property under his or her control. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the majority of people age 12 to 20 drink at someone else’s home.
Retail Alcohol Availability explored laws that control the number, density, and location of retail alcohol stores in neighborhoods. James Mosher, an expert in community prevention strategies, alcohol law, and social host liability, facilitated the event, which underscored the role of alcohol outlet density on public health, safety, and quality of life.
Mr. Mosher also facilitated the fourth webinar, Alcohol Taxes and Public Health: Implementing an Alcohol Tax Campaign in Your State. He noted that despite extensive research linking alcohol outlet density, problem alcohol outlets, and adverse community outcomes, local governments don’t always use the tools they already have, in the form of permits and ordinances, to restrict the number, location, concentration, and type of liquor outlets in their communities. The webinar offered concrete tips and tools for implementing reform and evaluating results.
Finally, Social Marketing, Social Norms, Social Media, Social What? explored the concept of social marketing, which applies commercial marketing principles and techniques to the “selling” of ideas, attitudes, and behaviors that benefit the audience and society as a whole.
The webinar series offered a practical and economic way to reach more than 200 participants working across the 11 States, 8 Tribes, and 6 Jurisdictions that make up the CAPT’s West Service Area. The response was enthusiastic. According to one participant, “So many webinars [present] problems we already know about and very few solutions, particularly for rural areas. This was one of the best webinars I've seen!”
For more information on the series, contact Michelle Frye-Spray at email@example.com .