Prevention Impacts the Bigger Picture

The current landscape of our world has encouraged us to think about the bigger picture, including our families, jobs, and communities.

While public health community coalitions focus on specific areas throughout Maine, prevention efforts trickle down and contribute to broader scope of health and wellness. Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities, either nation-wide or in your local neighborhood.[1] Localized efforts like heart disease, obesity, and substance use prevention plant the necessary roots that allow society as a whole to thrive and progress. Community-based substance use prevention efforts not only have a local impact, but contribute to the larger picture of healthy and successful populations.

Access Health is one of over sixteen coalitions state-wide funded by Drug Free Communities, a federal grant dedicated to preventing substance use for youth.[2] Through this funding, we work to prevent substance use for youth throughout several mid coast communities by data-informed campaigns, providing resources for parents, caregivers, and youth, as well as several channels of community outreach.

The Maine Integrated Youth Survey helps coalitions like Access Health measure their local impact, but these prevention efforts have had a national impact as well.[3] Evaluation researchers found that middle schoolers living in DFC-funded communities presented a 24.4% reduction in alcohol use, 29.4% reduction in tobacco use and 15.1% reduction in marijuana use by 2017. High school-aged youth have reduced their use of alcohol by 15.5%, tobacco by 23.7% and marijuana by 4.9%.[4] In addition to preventing youth substance use in smaller communities, prevention efforts also decrease the risk of negative health outcomes such as underdeveloped cognitive skills, attempted suicides, economic hardship, legal problems, emotional distress, mental illness, and the overall rate of adults living with a substance use disorders in larger populations.[5]

Another example of how prevention influence the broader landscape of health and wellness is Maine’s Let’s Go! Program. Let’sGo! works with child care programs, school districts and healthcare providers to implement evidenced-based strategies to prevent childhood obesity.[6] Although each Let’s Go! Coordinator works with a handful of communities, their efforts have had a broader impact on Maine’s population. For example, increasing the percentage of students eating five or more fruits and vegetables daily, and decreasing the consumption of sugary beverages by middle and high schoolers.[7]

Our local coalitions work to better our communities during the present and for the future. While we are in a time that requires us to look beyond our own landscape it is important to look at the picture of our world through a positive lens.