Seven levers of effective prevention

(C) 2015 Institute for Integrated Prevention, Poland


Thinking according to the principle of a lever consists of searching for a foothold that would allow great effects to be achieved despite limited forces and resources. Seven levers of effective prevention are seven footholds, seven aspects of reality, which are key to effectiveness in the area of prevention and the upbringing process. 



Pay attention to what is good
(then you will find better solutions to the problems)

This is the lever of awareness of the impact that information has on motivation and the creative search for solutions. Positive information about youth and the educational potential of local communities are the best starting points in the creative search for solutions to problems. The fact that (according to our research) the majority of young high school students do not engage in risk behaviours is an example of such positive information. Focusing on these types of facts triggers a new way of thinking, which is, ?What can I do to let more young people develop their potential, live healthily and be an inspiration to others?.


Think in an integrated way about problem behaviours and prevention
(then solutions will be holistic and efforts economical)


The second lever of effective prevention is based on the fact that similar factors are involved with the occurrence of various risk behaviours from many different areas (drug and alcohol use, violence, sexual risk behaviours, pornography use, violence, depression and suicidal tendencies, etc.). Strengthening the protection factors and weakening the risk factors of one problem should be seen in the context of its impact on other issues.

A holistic and integrated approach can be a source of savings and significant increase in the efficiency of public expenditures for the goals of prevention. It is, therefore, advisable to incorporate into municipal/local strategy those activities which enhance the protective factors and weaken risk factors associated with not one, but many threats. Such an approach will certainly intensify the effects of every penny invested in prevention actions.


Base on the resources of local communities
(by respecting them, you gain powerful allies) 

The most rational and effective approach relies on local resources. Just analyse and link some facts. Relationships with parents, religiousness, positive school climate and good atmosphere in the class are proven protective factors which prevent many youth problems and risk behaviours. They represent important resources for each local community. Additionally, the daily care and upbringing of children by parents is an effort and 'expense'  of the family, not the municipality or the state. The activity of religious organizations in terms of their primary mission also takes place without the funding of local authorities. An approach based on respect for these natural social resources promotes the development of social capital, prevents conflicts and builds a broad positive front (around prevention and educational activities).


Build on the values and dreams of youth
(then they accept a healthy lifestyle as a means to achieving their own goals)


Thanks to understanding the meaning of the life aspirations, values, and dreams of youth we are able to base prevention of youth problems on a very strong and deep motivation. Lack of support in their environment or bitter experiences in life may have covered young people's dreams with a layer of fears and concerns. As the results of many studies show, the aspirations of young people are focused on great matters and aims - those that are associated with the most important interpersonal bonds, at the same time they are connected with matters that may bring purpose and meaning to their adult lives.

Supporting youth in achieving their dreams of creating a happy family in the future or developing passions and interests that prepare them for professional life is an important lever which can be used to unite the efforts of different entities in local communities. Prevention programmes referring to such motivations are well received by youth, even if their message associated with a healthy lifestyle poses very difficult challenges for young people.


Fight for education and prevention to be a developmental priority
(there are more people seriously concerned about youth than you think there are)

For the fifth lever of effective prevention we use the term 'developmental priority'. Treating education and prevention of youth problems as a priority is a condition for the development of young people. Supporting youth and preventing youth problems should be included as a priority in the strategy of development of every municipality and the state itself. Therefore, anyone who is engaged in prevention has a very important social role. Treating some areas as priority creates conditions for and gives the green light to actions, facilitates finding financial resources and enables the achievement of crucial objectives in this area, regardless of difficulties and barriers. For this reason, it is vital to discuss the importance of prevention and the upbringing process and to demonstrate the costs of social and financial consequences of youth risk behaviours.


While creating a strategy, search for maximum effect at optimal cost
(then the effort makes the most sense)

Optimal costs are not the lowest possible cost, but the cheapest way to achieve maximum results. The effect we want to attain in the prevention field is a radical reduction in the scale of multiple different risk behaviours and youth problems throughout the whole local community. In order to obtain such an outcome, the most cost-effective ways of preventing and solving problems and the economics of prevention should be taken into account. This approach allows us to achieve maximum effect at optimal cost by combining two factors: comprehensive effectiveness of actions and their wide range of implementation. When using this lever, two questions should be posed: how to create a strategy that will assure comprehensive effectiveness and how to implement it on a large scale in the most economical manner? In finding the answers to these questions, The Guidebook to Effective Prevention of Youth Problems can be helpful. The tables included in the text may facilitate the development of a cost-effective local prevention strategy.


Invite the cooperation of people with a passion and love for youth  
(a team of people with passion achieves great goals and doesn’t burn out)

The whole strategy would not be complete without the seventh lever, which emphasizes the significance of the people who create a vision for the prevention system as well as those who implement the strategy. People with a passion for working with youth are able to pursue their goals even when confronted with numerous obstacles and barriers.

The key combination of two values: a positive, kind attitude towards youth, and sincere commitment to action for the benefit of youth is of fundamental importance. Professionalism, strong capabilities, and appropriate formal qualifications are assets that can be fully manifested when they are accompanied by enthusiasm and commitment rooted in a passion for working with youth.



Seven levers of effective prevention is a mindset that can become the basis for the formation of local teams cooperating to support young people and prevent youth problems. The whole philosophy of The Guidebook to Effective Prevention of Youth Problems is pragmatic and applicable, as it is rooted in common sense and based on noticing and enhancing the resources naturally present in local communities.