April 22, 2019

Since 1979, the School’s Social Development Research Group has worked to understand and promote prevention science. Through high-profile research projects, its team of scientists and practitioners, currently led by endowed professor in prevention and SDRG director Kevin Haggerty, incorporates evidence-based practices that promote healthy behaviors and encourage positive social development among diverse populations of young people. Says Haggerty: “As the newest director, I’m humbled by SDRG’s legacy of innovation and science-driven social change rooted in community involvement. We are entering our fifth decade dedicated to getting in front of the social challenges that impact the health and well-being of today’s youth.”

Over the past four decades, SDRG researchers have written 836 journal articles, manuscripts and book chapters. One of its most recent contributions to the field is Communities That Care: Building Community Engagement and Capacity to Prevent Youth Behavior Problems, written by two leading experts on prevention from the School of Social Work—J. David Hawkins, Emeritus Endowed Professor of Prevention, and Professor Richard F. Catalano—along with Abigail Fagan, University of Florida, and David Farrington, Cambridge University. 

Catalano and Hawkins, (pictured, right) SDRG’s founding directors, recently received the 2019 Distinguished Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work and Research. The award recognizes their outstanding scholarship, rigorous approach to social work research and major contributions to the field. 

For decades, SDRG has been deploying Communities That Care (CTC), a proven five-step change process using prevention science as its base. This pioneering approach has been used successfully in dozens of communities, including central and southeast Seattle, and in 16 states across the nation, promoting healthy development and reducing crime rates for youth. The SDRG team has trained more than 375 facilitators in the CTC system.  

A randomized trial demonstrated that CTC has achieved striking results: a 25 percent reduction in crime, 32 percent reduction in alcohol use initiation, and 33 percent reduction in tobacco-use initiation among youth in CTC communities compared to control communities. The program’s new toolkit, called CTC Plus, provides communities with up-to-date training and technical assistance. More than 2,000 community board members nationwide are accessing the online tools and videos offered through CTC Plus.

SDRG conducts scientific research, offers survey research services and provides dissemination services of evidence based programs. Several SDRG studies, both ongoing and recently funded, continue to contribute to the field of prevention science:

  • Community Youth Development Study. Launched in 2003, this study, which tests the effectiveness of CTC in preventing youth drug use, delinquency and violence, has expanded to include a look at the long-term effects of the prevention system on small-town youth who were in the fifth grade when the study began and are now 26 years old. Researchers are also examining how changes in marijuana legalization laws are affecting drug use and adult functioning.
  • E-cigarettes. This newly funded study focuses on the risks and protective factors of e-cigarette use; whether e-cigarette use leads to cigarette use; and the transmission of e-cigarette use across generations.
  • Guiding Good Choices for Health. This study looks at whether embedding an effective parenting program in primary care can prevent drug use, delinquency and depression. Three health care systems—Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Kaiser Colorado and the Henry Ford Healthcare System in Detroit—are partnering in the trials to ensure that results are relevant and can be quickly disseminated.    
  • Northwest Prevention Technology Transfer Center. SDRG recently received funding to lead a dissemination service for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. SDRG’s director Kevin Haggerty is the principal investigator, guiding training and technical assistance in community-activated prevention. The NW PTTC helps prevention specialists find, implement and evaluate evidence-based substance abuse prevention programs, policies and practices. The project is conducted in collaboration with Washington State University and the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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