National Prevention Week Highlights Importance of Being Proactive
May 13th through the 19th is recognized as National Prevention Week, an annual occurrence recognized by communities, organizations, and public health agencies across the country. As the name would suggest, the week aims to bring much needed awareness to the key role of prevention when addressing any public health concern. Each day will be themed after an issue in which prevention could make a difference, ranging from mental health, suicide prevention, to a range of substance use disorders.
It is hard to overstate the tremendous need for prevention when it comes to addressing issues of health. Taking just the issue of substance abuse, the societal and economic costs are staggering. The National Institute on Drug Abuse calculates abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs as costing more than $740 billion dollar each year, when taking crime, lost work productivity, and health care in to account. The tens of thousands of lives lost each year due to substance use, however, make the true costs incalculable.
Simply put, prevention is cost effective. By being proactive and not reactive, prevention seeks to stop issues from arising in the first place. Studies by organizations such as SAMHSA, have found the costs of evidenced-based prevention activities to have a significant savings impact across the board. For example, drug prevention programs in schools, with demonstrated effectiveness, were shown to save hundreds to thousands of dollars per student over their lifetime, when factoring in projected health and quality of life benefits. Other strategies such as responsible beverage server training for those in the alcohol service industry yielded a savings of $3.6 for every dollar spent on implementing it. The takeaway from reports like these is clear; by prioritizing prevention upfront we can more than make up for the costs in the long term.
However prevention is tried, the success of it often comes down to collaboration. No matter your position, background, or experience, anyone with a passion to solve public health concerns can have an important role. By keeping informed, helping to educate others, and looking for ways to help, you can make a difference.
One great way to get involved is by joining a local coalition, which can help guide you on how you can be most effective. For substance abuse prevention, visit asac.us and our community prevention page to learn about coalitions in your area.
By: Jeffrey Meyers, Certified Prevention Specialist