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Building Sustainable Infrastructure to Implement Programs that Promote Healthy Development and Prevent Behavioral and Mental Health Problems

On March 27, 2024, the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives convened internationally recognized experts on state-level systems to deliver youth-focused prevention programs in communities. The Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State University co-sponsored the event.


The scope and magnitude of challenges facing youth and their families in the United States demand effective solutions. Scientific evidence is a critical tool for revealing what works, in what settings, and for which individuals and communities. Evidence can protect taxpayer interests by informing decision makers about where best to invest public dollars to create opportunities by ensuring people who need help can get it, and driving faster progress, thereby expanding the impact of public dollars to improve lives. The opportunities for this process to play out can be particularly impactful with the application of evidence amassed in the field of prevention science, which direct us to well-tested strategies shown to interrupt pathways to negative outcomes and improve the behavioral health and wellbeing among our youth.


This briefing featured speakers who presented a blueprint, including specific actionable steps for building and sustaining an infrastructure, for delivering effective preventive interventions to promote healthy outcomes in our youth. Integral to such an infrastructure is the availability and utility of registries that have established, based on rigorous research, programs that meet standards for a designation as “evidence-based,” assisting states and local governments in determining how best to invest precious resources. It also identified funding needs and strategies to support the infrastructure; presented results of cost-benefit analyses of prevention programming establishing their return on investment; discussed barriers to widespread program implementation; and recommended state level policies to support the financing and infrastructure (including workforce development and data interoperability) for promoting behavioral health.

More Information About the Speakers:

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Dr. Diana Fishbein

Moderator: Diana Fishbein, Ph.D. is the founder and co-director of NPSC, Senior Research Scientist, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and part-time faculty at Penn State University.


Dr. Fishbein provides introductory remarks outlining the need for a national comprehensive service delivery system that can support implementation of evidence-based programming at the community level to prevent behavioral and mental health problems in our youth and promote healthy outcomes.

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Dr. Abigail Fagan

“Scaling up evidence-based interventions in US public systems to prevent behavioral health problems”


Abigail Fagan, Ph.D., Professor of Criminology, Law, and Society, University of Florida. Dr. Fagan will speak about strategies needed to significantly increase the use of evidence-based interventions (EBIs; i.e., programs, policies, and practices) in state-level systems in the US. She will briefly review recommendations made by a task force sponsored by the Society of Prevention Research, of which she served as Co-Chair. The task force reviewed barriers and facilitators of EBI use in five public systems: behavioral health, child welfare, education, juvenile justice, and public health. Across systems, the factor considered as most likely to increase EBI scale-up was the degree to which these systems enacted public policies (i.e., statutes, regulations, and guidance) requiring or recommending EBIs and provided public funds for EBIs. Other facilitators were creating EBIs that are ready for scale-up, public awareness of and support for EBIs, community engagement and capacity to implement EBIs, leadership support for EBIs, a skilled workforce capable of delivering EBIs, and the capacity of practitioners and policy makers to collect and assess data on EBI use and outcomes.

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Dr. Zili Sloboda

"A national strategy for preventing substance and opioid use disorders through evidence-based prevention”


Zili Sloboda, ScD, the President, Applied Prevention Science and Diana Fishbein, Ph.D. is
a Senior Research Scientist, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.


Today we have a much better understanding as to the pathways that lead to substance use and other behavioral problems. They are complex and involve the interaction between the individual and his/her/their micro-and macro-level environments. And, we now have evidence-based interventions and policies to address these pathways. Our challenge is the BIG disconnect between what we know about the delivery of evidence-based prevention practices and their delivery. One solution that has the potential to not only address the delivery of evidence-based prevention interventions (EBPIs) and policies but also to assure equity of this delivery is the creation of a national community-based comprehensive prevention service delivery system. This presentation describes such a system highlighting what system components are already in place and lays out a plan for moving the system design to a functioning service delivery system.

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Dr. Pamela Buckley

 ”Online tools for locating evidence-based prevention interventions”


Pamela Buckley, PhD Associate Research Professor, University of Colorado Boulder


Online clearinghouses translate evaluation literature to increase accessibility of evidence-based programs and serve as one resource for identifying effective interventions. Up to 24 exist within the United States and Europe alone. Included among this count is Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development (, a globally recognized registry and the only one solely focused on evidence-based preventive interventions (EBPIs). EBPIs have been evaluated according to published standards of evidence and shown to be effective in promoting positive behavior, mental health, and well-being while reducing negative health outcomes – including violence, suicide, and substance misuse – before they ever start. They are implemented at individual, family, school, and community levels and are designed to strengthen assets promoting healthy development and reduce the risk for problem behaviors. This talk will draw upon the previous two presentations to explain how online clearinghouses fit into the delivery of EBPIs and provide examples of partnerships formed to increase scale-up of EBPIs listed on clearinghouse websites.

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Lisa Hill

“A Living Statewide Example of How to Ensure Every Child has a Strong Start in Life”


Lisa Hill, CEO of Invest in Kids. This panel will culminate in hearing the voices of those who operate and participate in evidence-based prevention interventions (EBPIs). INVEST IN KIDS (IIK) is a nonprofit organization that works alongside Colorado communities to adopt, implement, and successfully scale proven programs that have the greatest long-term impact on young children and families experiencing poverty. IIK offers an example of a public-private partnership formed to scale EBPIs at the state level. She will be accompanied by an individual who participated in the Home Visiting Program to describe her experience and the benefits she received.


Watch the Replay!


Policy briefs:

Describe actions to increase EBI scale-up in behavioral health, education, and public health


Research Articles

  • Fishbein DH, Sloboda Z. A National Strategy for Preventing Substance and Opioid Use Disorders Through Evidence-Based Prevention Programming that Fosters Healthy Outcomes in Our Youth. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2023 Mar;26(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s10567-022-00420-5. Epub 2022 Dec 21. PMID: 36542196; PMCID: PMC9768412.

  • Fagan, A.A. et al. 2019. Scaling up Evidence-Based Interventions in US Public Systems to Prevent Behavioral Health Problems: Challenges and Opportunities. Prevention Science 20, 1147–1168

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