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The PROSPER Project: A proven model for delivering prevention programs to communities

Posted: October 22, 2014

While evidence-based prevention programs have been shown to decrease high-risk behaviors among young people, effectively delivering and sustaining these programs can be challenging, especially for rural communities. To address these challenges, a team of prevention scientists tapped into Cooperative Extension’s expertise in successfully delivering research-based solutions to rural communities, and cultivated a collaborative approach to program delivery that has proven successful in communities throughout the country.

The PROSPER project, or PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience, was designed to facilitate the delivery of evidence-based interventions to middle-school youth and their families, and was launched in 2002 as a joint effort of prevention scientists at Penn State and Iowa State Universities.

The PROSPER model takes a collaborative approach to program delivery by forging partnerships among communities, schools, and prevention scientists. One key to the success of these partnerships is the involvement of Extension Educators, who, along with a representative from the public school system, lead community teams and provide a crucial link between university scientists and community-based partners. In Pennsylvania, 11 such community teams are established across the state.

The PROSPER program offers a suite of evidence-based intervention programs to choose from, and each community team selects one family-based and one school-based program based upon their needs. A Prevention Coordinator Team and a State Management Team provide technical assistance and help with implementation and evaluation. Programs in the PROSPER suite of evidence-based interventions include:

  • Strengthening Families Program, for parents and youth aged 10-14;
  • All Stars, which aims to foster the development of characteristics that will help young people delay or abstain from engaging in risky behaviors;
  • LifeSkills Training, which trains young people in social and self-management skills to reduce the likelihood of substance use; and,
  • Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence, which engages parents, teachers and community members in promoting positive youth outcomes.

Just as these programs are evidence-based, the PROSPER model also has been empirically shown to be an effective vehicle for program delivery. In an evaluation study of the model, youth and families who participated in PROSPER-facilitated programs reported fewer negative behavioral outcomes. These include reduced rates of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use and a decrease in delinquent behaviors. Families also reported on positive outcomes. Youth felt closer to their families, parents built upon their discipline skills, and families’ problem-solving skills increased. PROSPER communities were shown to benefit as well, reporting more positive perceptions of Extension and school staff. These communities also were able to sustain their intervention programming over an extended period of time (seven years or more) and many PROSPER teams have successfully sustained their programs for ten years or more.

For more information about the PROSPER model, visit: http://extension.psu.edu/youth/prosper