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Problem Identification and Analysis (Needs Assessment)

Successful prevention efforts begin with a comprehensive and well-grounded understanding of the key problem areas on campus and within a particular community. After identifying the AOD problems on campus, the prevention team can examine how these problems manifest themselves in the environment and identify priority issues and concerns.


Accurate problem identification relies on gathering and analyzing data systematically at both the individual and environmental levels. This data collection and analysis seeks to identify the quantity and frequency of AOD use by individual students; the academic, medical, and social consequences of college students’ alcohol use; and the environmental factors that contribute to use, such as easy access to alcohol or lax enforcement of campus AOD policies.

Many prevention teams typically examine individual factors, such as what students think and do, in problem identification. In order to facilitate environmental change, it is essential for teams also to examine the environmental conditions that shape students’ decisions. Environmentally focused data-gathering will inform the development of effective environmentally based strategies.

After compiling and analyzing the data, the prevention team can prioritize which problems to address so that they can create an appropriate course of action. Politics on campus and in the community, and money, staff time, and other resources may dictate which problem to undertake first. If the team or coalition is newly formed, it may make sense to start with a problem that is easy to address to establish an early success and build momentum.

With a clear understanding of the nature of the problem, the team can focus their prevention efforts on defining the desired changes on campus and in the community.

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