Prioritizing risk and protective factors is a crucial part of the SPF planning process. Different criteria can be used to prioritize risk and protective factors. Communities often use two of these—importance and changeability—to decide which risk or protective factors to address. You will want to select risk or protective factors that are high―in both importance and changeability.
Importance refers to how much a risk or protective factor impacts the substance abuse problem in a community. When examining the data collected, ask yourself how important a particular risk or protective factor is in reducing the problem in the community. If the answer is “very important,” then this would be considered “high” importance; if it is not important, then it would be considered “low.” For example, if the problem is underage drinking, and the data showed that a lot more youth were obtaining alcohol from stores (referred to as retail access) rather than from their homes or peers (referred to as social access), then retail access would be considered “high” importance, whereas social access would be considered “low.”
When weighing the importance of risk and protective factors, be sure to consider the following information as well:
Changeability refers to the following:
If the community has ample resources and sufficient readiness to address this risk or protective factor, if a suitable evidence-based intervention exists, and if change can occur within a reasonable timeframe, then it would be considered “high” changeability. If there are not adequate resources or the community is not ready to address the risk or protective factor, then it would be considered “low” changeability.
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