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Selecting Evidence-Based Strategies and Tactics

Employing evidence-based strategies and tactics will help to solve identified problems and achieve desired outcomes. A strategy is a plan of action to accomplish a goal, while a tactic is a method for achieving that goal. Once teams have identified their program goals and desired outcomes, they can consult the current literature to identify research-supported strategies and tactics.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Task Forceís 2002 Report, A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges details a tiered classification system identifying prevention strategies with various levels of research supporting their effectiveness. Tier One consists of strategies with evidence of effectiveness among college students. Tier Two identifies strategies with evidence of effectiveness in the general population that could be applied to colleges. Tier Three highlights strategies with evidence of logical and theoretical promise, but which require more comprehensive evaluation to demonstrate effectiveness. Finally, Tier Four denotes strategies with no evidence of effectiveness.

The five strategies for environmental change developed and advocated by the U.S. Department of Educationís Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention fall within these first three categories of effective or promising strategies. Using the NIAAA report and the Higher Education Centerís environmental management principles as sources of evidence-supported strategies and tactics, prevention groups can identify the research-supported strategies that will achieve their desired outcomes most effectively. These groups should avoid strategies and tactics that research has not found to be effective, which the NIAAA would classify as Tier Four, and instead focus on those with demonstrated effectiveness or promise.

If research is lacking on a potentially promising strategy, however, and a group can map how the strategy logically will likely achieve their desired outcomes, they could consider that strategy as similar to the Tier Three strategies, and contemplate implementing the strategy with extensive evaluation and monitoring of its success. As the ultimate goal is to create environmental change that will reduce high-risk AOD use, groups need not ignore promising strategies, but should employ them carefully, monitoring and measuring outcomes thoroughly.

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