The Real Prevention : A Definition

The overlap in technologies between drug prevention, delinquency prevention, and behavioural modification within the Social Services context (as described at the beginning of this chapter) was an exciting discovery for this author. However, rather like being the second into the bathtub after Archimedes, it was found to be not a new discovery. In 1983 Bill W. Lofquist in the foreword to his classic book, had made the following key statement:
‘We have organised human services around symptoms, building entire systems that work in relative isolation from one another. Juvenile and criminal justice, education, health, public welfare, recreation and many other services function in separate spheres and there is often isolation of components even within these systems….

Prevention is another matter. When I have told people I have been working on a book about prevention, the immediate question has often been prevention of what?’ That is a logical question in a symptom-focused, remedial, reactive world. I have purposefully left any mention of symptoms out of the title of the book. One reason is the awareness that a wide variety of symptoms are the result of some common conditions. Designing separate systems for remedial work may make some sense, but addressing the common conditions which promote those systems calls for a different approach. If we can get beyond the notion that prevention is only “stopping something from happening” to a more positive approach, that creates conditions which promote the well-being of people, we can begin to view human services quite differently. This, in turn, can transform and enrich our approaches to helping people and building communities that are relatively free of the symptoms we have designed the services around.

The wider significance and potential of this finding is enormous. It means that if we can only produce and effect truly comprehensive prevention strategies there is the promise of society empowering itself to achieve improvements across a broad spectrum. Nothing solves everything, of course, and like many good strategies it is likely to fall foul of such factors as professional and/or parochial jealousies, myopic policies, etc. Prevention workers are therefore unlikely to need to plan a fresh career for some time to come.

Taken from “Drug Prevention – Just Say NOW”, by Peter Stoker
David Fulton Publishers, London 1992.

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