May 23, 2018

School of Social Work Associate Professor Kevin Haggerty, who has been with the School since 1985, is the newly appointed endowed professor in prevention. Haggerty is committed to expanding resources and the work of the Social Development Research Group, where he will continue to serve as director. The funds generated by the prevention endowment will give him the latitude to fund special projects and explore new ideas outside of tightly restricted research grants. 

SDRG focuses on developing new ways to organize a scientific knowledge base around prevention. More than 30 years ago, the research group pioneered Communities That Care, an innovative system that harnesses the strengths of local communities and incorporates evidence-based practices to improve the lives of young people.

“We’ve recently expanded the web-based platform to increase the reach of Communities That Care,” said Haggerty. Currently, the SDRG team is assisting 125 communities across the country to implement the scientifically proven prevention system.

New data released last month confirm ongoing benefits for young people who participate in Communities That Care interventions. A longitudinal study published online in the American Journal of Public Health shows that youth who lived in Communities That Care towns were more likely to have abstained from substance use, violence and other antisocial behaviors through age 21. The study was conducted with 4,400 youth participants living in 24 rural communities in seven states: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oregon, Utah and Washington. (Read the UW News story.)

Haggerty and his staff continue to explore ways to unleash the power of prevention to promote healthy outcomes for young people. Areas of interest include opioid addiction and the impact of retail marijuana sales among youth.  

As research dollars become more competitive, “team science” offers a viable approach to maximize scarce resources. “We’re doing more collaborative work with other universities, such as Washington State University, as well as within the School and the UW,” said Haggerty. “For example, we’ve teamed up with the Alliance for Child Welfare Excellence to conduct more prevention work with youth exposed to trauma inside the foster care system.”

Haggerty holds an interdisciplinary doctorate in prevention science that includes nursing, psychology, education and social work. The endowed prevention professorship was previously held by J. David Hawkins who retired in 2017.