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Strategic Prevention Framework


Practitioners often feel an urgent need to implement immediate solutions to the pressing substance misuse problems facing their communities. But research and experience have shown that prevention must begin with an understanding of these complex behavioral health problems within their complex environmental contexts; only then can communities establish and implement effective plans to address substance misuse.

To facilitate this understanding, SAMHSA developed the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF). The five steps and two guiding principles of the SPF offer prevention practitioners a comprehensive approach to understanding and addressing the substance misuse and related behavioral health problems facing their communities, and to developing and sustaining programs and practices that reduce behavioral health inequities.


Five semicircles, labeled Assessment, Capacity, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation, are arrayed around a central circle with the words Sustainability and Cultural Competence.


Steps and Guiding Principles

The SPF includes these five steps:

  1. Assessment: Identify local prevention needs based on data (e.g., What is the problem?)
  2. Capacity: Build local resources and readiness to address prevention needs (e.g., What do you have to work with? How can you facilitate the communication of prevention science?)
  3. Planning: Find out what works to address prevention needs and how to do it (e.g., What should you do and how should you do it?)
  4. Implementation: Deliver evidence-based programs and practices as intended (e.g., How can you and your coalition put your plan into action?)
  5. Evaluation: Examine the process and outcomes of programs and practices (e.g., Is your plan succeeding?)

The SPF is also guided by two cross-cutting principles that should be integrated into each of its five steps:

  • Cultural competence: The ability of an individual or organization to understand, interact, and engage with people who have different values, culture, languages, lifestyles, and traditions based on their distinctive heritage and social relationships.
  • Sustainability: The process of building an adaptive and effective system that achieves and maintains desired long-term results.

Defining Characteristics

The SPF has several defining characteristics that set it apart from other strategic planning processes. Most notably, they are:

  • Dynamic and iterative: Assessment is the starting point, but practitioners will return to this repeatedly as their community’s substance misuse problems and capacities evolve. Communities may also engage in activities related to multiple steps simultaneously. For these reasons, the SPF is a circular rather than a linear model.
  • Data-informed: The SPF is designed to help practitioners gather and use data to guide all prevention decisions—from identifying which substance misuse problems to address in their communities, to choosing the most appropriate ways to address these problems, to determining whether communities are making progress.
  • Reliant on and encourages a team approach: Each step of the SPF requires—and greatly benefits from—the participation of diverse community partners. The individuals and institutions involved in prevention efforts may change as the initiative evolves, but the need for prevention partners who understand and embrace the SPF, and who represent the diversity of your community and those sub-populations traditionally marginalized and underserved, will remain constant.

Communities receiving SAMHSA prevention funding are expected to use the SPF to guide their prevention planning efforts. Adherence to the principles in the framework increases the likelihood that prevention efforts will produce anticipated outcomes, reduce harmful behaviors, and keep communities healthier and safer.

Related Resources

Last Updated
Last Updated: 06/07/2023
Last Updated