DATA & EVALUATION
From its beginning, the Coalition has worked to create a healthy environment for youth through use of evidence-based, data-centered ideas and efforts. This entire approach is fundamental to the Communities That Care operating system which itself is based on analysis of vast research and data.
Although we value treatment and attempts to fix existing problems, the Coalition itself focuses on PREVENTION strategies that invest in future success rather than spending our limited time and resources responding to and trying to fix problems after they occur. Many of our partner organizations are well-equipped to address existing problems.
If health for all is our goal, then prevention is about addressing root causes of the things that have the greatest influence on our health, including social and family support, education, early childhood development, substance use, mental health, etc.
We use data and design to build efforts that drive population level outcomes. We specialize in providing research, strategy, media campaigns, social media, policy change, and youth engagement activities to benefit residents and our partners in the Cortland community.
Each year, we survey over 1,400 7th-12th grade students in Cortland County. The Youth Survey measures risk and protective factors to predict adolescent problem behaviors. From the results of the survey, community-wide programs which reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors can be created to support needs in the community.
Risk factors are the events, characteristics or conditions that make a negative outcome, such as depression, more likely. If we are aware of the key risk factors for depression, more effective interventions can be designed. Alternatively, protective factors are conditions or processes that work to moderate the negative effects of risk factors.
When designing effective interventions, it is possible to think about both risk and protective factors. However, protective factors are of high importance due to the cost and resources required for treatment. For example, depression interventions often requiring a licensed professional can be highly resource intensive. While it would be beneficial for everyone experiencing depressive symptoms to see a therapist or licensed professional, the high cost prevents this from being a feasible option for the entire population. Furthermore, treatment alone may not be practical due to the high incidence rates of depression. The critical question becomes: what can we do to change the environment in ways more conducive to health and less conducive to depression.
A focus on implementation of interventions to enhance protective factors is likely to be very feasible. Such programs are unlikely to be stigmatizing and can help more adolescents overall. Therefore, it is important to develop population level interventions that are scalable (can address everyone), low intensity, cost effective and measurable. Furthermore, these types of interventions support and enhance our partners’ programs that are more intense, work at the individual/small group level, and more costly.