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Despite historical linkages between the early roots of Social Work and prevention, including using epidemiological data to identify needs and home visiting to strengthen families, in recent years, social workers predominantly have been involved in intervention with individuals and families after problems have been identified. This course investigates the potential for preventing major social problems with high costs to society using as illustrative cases recent developments in the prevention of child abuse and neglect, drug and alcohol misuse, violence, and other problems.

This course presents the research base for prevention science for children and adolescents including an overview of theory, research, and practice in prevention science. A developmental perspective is used to focus on factors that promote or inhibit healthy development at different stages from before birth through adolescence. Topics include the promotion of healthy development in childhood and adolescence and the prevention of problems that impede healthy development including child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, unwanted pregnancy, violence, delinquent behavior, school misbehavior, dropout, and mental health disorders.

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine's Mental Health Intervention Spectrum (2009) is used as a framework to distinguish mental health promotion and universal, selective, and indicated prevention from treatment. The course demonstrates how prevention science is built on the foundations of developmental epidemiology, biopsychosocial predictors of positive and problem behavior and the distribution of these predictors and behaviors across development and geography. The course follows the preventive intervention research cycle to explore the role of clinical and field trials in identifying efficacious and effective preventive interventions. Approaches, results, and issues in large scale, community preventive interventions are also explored. Finally, opportunities and prospects for dissemination of effective preventive interventions and research on dissemination are investigated.