Community-based prevention using simple, low-cost, evidence-based kernels and behavior vaccines

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Abstract

A paradox exists in community prevention of violence and drugs. Good research now exists on evidence-based programs, yet extensive expenditures on prevention have not produced community-level results. Various multiproblems are quite prevalent in the United States, such as violence, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), conduct problems, learning disabilities, depression, and other mood problems. Various studies have observed that intuitively appealing community-based coalitions and best practice requirements have not produced prevention gains as hoped for by many. Calls for more money, fidelity, or dose seem unlikely to succeed. Other alternatives may be possible. Most of the best practices aimed at preventing these community problems are composed of evidence-based kernels, which act on core principles of prevention (risk and protective factors). What is not widely known is that the evidence-based kernels are powerful in their own right. Evidence-based kernels are irreducible units of behavior-change technology, and they can be put together into behavioral vaccines (daily practices) with powerful longitudinal prevention results. Kernels and behavioral vaccines are simple, and they are not programs or curriculum in the conventional sense. This article presents examples of evidence-based kernels and behavioral vaccines that can be promoted easily across whole communities or states using social marketing principles. Widespread propagation of evidence-based kernels and behavioral vaccines could have a significant impact on communities and their prevention norms, providing low-cost alternatives and practical models for community psychology, public health, and policy makers. Behavioral kernels and vaccines can add needed precision to prevention science and community psychology. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Comm Psychol 32: 575–591, 2004.

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