Maintaining the gains: sustainability in prevention and early intervention

Maintaining the gains: sustainability in prevention and early intervention

Media release — 1 March 2007

Prevention and early intervention programs offer the potential to address and overcome a wide range of problems in development, health, learning, behaviour and wellbeing. Both have a capacity to reduce the factors that may have negative impacts on development, while enhancing strengths and enriching positive factors.

In an article in Family Matters no.75, Australian Institute of Family Studies Director, Professor Alan Hayes identifies some of the key social systems that may sustain the benefits of prevention and early intervention initiatives.

'Families; child care provisions; preschools; schools; peer groups; vocation, further and higher education; community organisations; and the world of work - are vital both as the loci for prevention and intervention, as well as for maintaining their benefits,' he writes.

Prevention involves planned and organised efforts to reduce the likelihood of potential problems. It seeks to reduce the overall likelihood of negative pathways while increasing the incidence of positive pathways.

Early intervention involves planned and organised attempts to alter the behaviour or development of individuals who show the early signs of an identified problem and/or who are considered at high risk of developing that problem.

Prevention and early intervention efforts also aim to enhance strengths, amplify protective factors and enrich the available pathways. Often, the focus will be both on reducing negative and enhancing positive factors. Parenting programs, for example, may focus on reducing negative behaviours such as harsh or inconsistent parenting as well as enhancing the parents' sense of competence by the development of positive parenting skills.

Professor Hayes points to a number of studies that show the importance of high quality schooling in sustaining the effects of interventions that occurred early in life. 'Availability of quality preschool education, followed by quality schooling, and the presence of social systems that work to ameliorate the effects of poverty are significant sustaining systems.'

Families and schools play a considerable role in sustaining the effects of initiatives in early life. Australia needs to develop and implement integrated policy, focused on these key systems if it is to maintain the gains of investment in prevention and early intervention, through life.

Hayes, A. (2006). Maintaining the gains: sustainability in prevention and early intervention. Family Matters 75, 66-69.

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