New federal funding to help ISU scientists build national youth prevention network

AMES, Iowa -- Grants totaling more than $7.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Annie E. Casey Foundation have recently been awarded to support the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute (PPSI) at Iowa State University.

PPSI researchers promote healthy youth and family development in Iowa through their evidence-based programming, which includes substance abuse prevention. Its programs are administered across the state through public schools, ISU Extension and other community agencies.

Much of the recent funding will be used by ISU scientists to develop a national network of programs designed to strengthen families and foster healthy, positive youth development -- using PPSI's Promoting School-Community-University Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER) as the model. PROSPER is conducted in cooperation with Pennsylvania State University.

National PROSPER model a collaborative effort

The national PROSPER Model, developed collaboratively between scientists at Iowa State and Penn State, is being designed to partner with the Cooperative Extension Systems and the public school system to reach families across the country. Federal and other agencies have now invested more than $70 million in grants over 20 years to form the scientific foundation for the network.

"Earlier funding has allowed PPSI to develop the science for the partnership model that connects Extension and the public school system to more effectively put scientifically proven programs into widespread practice," said Richard Spoth, director of PPSI. "It took the time and resources to show that our programs could work long-term, for a range of positive youth and family outcomes, on a larger scale, and we're now getting the federal dollars to implement the PROSPER partnership model in other states."

Spoth reports that Iowa youth whose communities were implementing the PROSPER Model had significantly lower rates of substance use and other problem behaviors, compared with youth who did not live in communities, years after the interventions.

"They also had significantly greater skills and improved relationships with their parents," he said. "PROSPER delivers programs that create a protective shield for youth, increasing their skills and their relationships in a way that protects them from exposure to difficult situations that can otherwise lead to problems, like substance use."

"Positive youth development and preventing substance use is paramount to ensuring that our nation's young people will become capable contributors to their communities and workplaces. Even delaying the first instance of substance abuse to a later age reduces the level of adult dependency," said Jack Payne, vice president for extension and outreach at Iowa State.

Two federally-funded projects building infrastructure

Two of the recently funded projects focus on building infrastructure across public education and Cooperative Extension Systems to support implementation of the PROSPER Model in U.S. schools and communities.

The CDC is funding a three-year project that will survey representatives from state agencies in all U.S. states to learn more about their readiness and capacity to implement PROSPER. After each state's readiness and capacity has been assessed, four states will be selected to receive additional training focused on sustained implementation of evidence-based programs. One of the states ultimately will be selected to implement PROSPER, with technical assistance provided by the project team. The project is co-funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The NIDA and NIH are funding a project to select states with which to develop infrastructure and build capacity for implementation of PROSPER -- including in-depth capacity and resource assessments at state and community levels, and capacity planning and building. An additional aim of this project is to build the capacity of the PROSPER Partnership Network team to provide training, technical assistance and other support to states, including the development of a Web-based process and outcome evaluation system.

"These agencies are wanting to support expansion of our successful model in Iowa to other states of the country," Spoth said. "They view it as a good investment."

They view it that way for good reason. Spoth reports that research has found a $10 return on every $1 invested from just one of their prevention programs. He says the work by PPSI scientists will result in substantial returns on the health and wellness of youth, families and communities across the country, in addition to economic benefits.