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The SPF Process

"The SPF Process" by Center on the Family. All rights reserved.

The SPF Process

Let's make a difference in our state, county, or community!

You probably have some ideas about how to do that, which may be why you are visiting this site. You may also have some questions about whether your prevention programs are addressing the right issues or how you can tell if your program goals are being met.

The Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) is a national public health initiative sponsored by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA). Five steps and two guiding principles of the SPF provide prevention planners with a comprehensive approach towards understanding and addressing substance misuse and related health problems in communities. Having evolved from previous initiatives in the prevention field, the SPF focuses on risk and protective factors of prevention, selection of evidence-based interventions, and measuring outcomes. It relies on the use of data-driven planning to allocate resources, and to build prevention capacity and infrastructure.

The SPF is an ongoing cyclical change process that consists of five steps: assessment, capacity, planning, implementation, and evaluation.

  • Assessment refers to a process by which we gather information to better understand problems and related needs of a community. It also refers to examining resources and capacity to address these problems and needs.

  • Capacity refers to the importance of recognizing the existing capacity in a community, as well as building capacity in essential ways. Capacity is defined as resources (e.g., fiscal, human, and organizational) to be applied to substance misuse prevention. Capacity also refers to readiness—the level of a community’s acceptance and support in directing resources to address specific problems, such as substance misuse or underage drinking.

  • Planning in SPF involves a review of the available assessment data about the problems and consequences; the consideration of what is known about risk and protective factors; and understanding of what can be changed and would make an impact. An optimal planning approach would use all this information in a priority setting process to review programs with evidence of effectiveness, and consider how programs would address risk or protective factors for particular target audiences.

  • Implementation may involve an adaptation of a program for local culture(s) and circumstances. It is important that evidence-based programs are delivered as intended and that the elements that made the program effective should be noted.

  • Evaluation looks at whether prevention programs are actually creating the change that they hope to make. What outcomes were achieved? Evaluation also provides information about how programs can be improved.

Two core guiding principles—cultural competence and sustainability—are integrated within each step of the SPF. In other words, the SPF process intends to create prevention strategies that are effective, culturally relevant, and sustainable in communities after grant funding ends.

  • Cultural competence is the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures, and it helps to ensure that the needs of all community members are addressed.

  • Sustainability of prevention outcomes can be achieved by building stakeholder support for the program, sharing results, and obtaining steady funding. The ultimate goal is to sustain prevention outcomes and programs that produce positive outcomes.

Some distinctive focus areas of this SPF process include:

  • Outcome-based prevention: It is important to assess whether prevention programs are actually creating their desired changes.

  • Population-level change: Rather than only examining the changes instigated by individual programs, this framework also examines whether progress is being made in overall community levels of substance misuse prevention outcomes.

  • Data-driven decision-making: Communities using the SPF model use data to understand the extent and characteristics of substance misuse problems in their community; assess the tools and resources available to address those problems; choose prevention programs; and evaluate the success of those programs.

  • Cultural relevance: Prevention efforts should be relevant and meaningful within the cultural context of the community.

  • Collaboration: Community-level change requires intensive collaboration across different organizations, agencies, and individuals throughout the community. As prevention priorities change over time, it is important to know that partnerships across sectors will also evolve. Various key community members play an important role throughout the prevention process.