Iowa State University

Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute





Project History


The Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute is based on projects funded by the National Institutes of Health grants since the early 1990's. The initial grant was called Project Family. From this early grant the project has evolved into a large-scale program of research on interventions designed to build family and youth competencies, thereby preventing youth substance abuse and other problem behaviors.  The program of research has included a number of studies funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as well as smaller investigations supported by foundations and other agencies (e.g., Center for Substance Abuse Prevention).  To date, over $51 million in grants has been secured.

Our university motto science with practice captures the central theme of this action research.  Its purpose is two-fold.

Concerning our “practice” purpose, we aim to enhance the well-being of participating families and children through the implementation of scientifically-tested programs and practices.  Central to this effort are community-university partnerships that build capacity for widespread application of proven programs and practices.  Our partnership efforts are grounded in two high-capacity program delivery systems, namely, the Cooperative Extension System and the public school system.  Overall, we aim to:

1.   Increase youth competencies, strengthen families, and reduce youth problem behaviors in our communities;

2.   Increase capacity for quality implementation of scientifically-tested preventive interventions, through school-community-university partnerships.

Concerning our science purpose, we aim to test and refine four types of models for universal preventive intervention research.  This work entails the examination of:

1.   Factors in local adoption of, and participation in, scientifically-tested programs;

2.   Factors in sustained, quality implementation of these programs;

3.   Outcomes of these programs for diverse populations, as well as factors influencing outcomes;

4.   Effective partnership processes and their influence on positive program outcomes.

To date, 17 studies have been conducted, including six randomized, controlled intervention outcome studies. Initially funded in the fall of 1991, the flagship study has been supported by five competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health, starting with a controlled pilot study in 1992.  Beginning with families of 5th graders in 1993, a subsequent longitudinal efficacy study has since been extended to include data collection from young adults.  Two family-focused preventive interventions are being evaluated through the study, the Iowa Strengthening Families Program and Preparing for the Drug Free Years.  As part of this project, a number of studies examine factors influencing parent and youth participation in preventive interventions.

The Capable Families and Youth (CaFaY) project is a more recent addition to longitudinal Project Family studies.  The project includes both family and school based interventions for Parents and Youth (Life Skills Training and the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14, respectively), and evaluates whether a combination of school- and family-focused interventions is more effective than a school-based intervention alone.  The CaFaY project was proposed as a five-year study.  Through a NIDA MERIT award to the principal investigator, a five-year extension to the project has been funded.  This is one of only three such grants ever awarded for a NIDA-funded preventive intervention research project.

Another longitudinal outcome study, known as Harambee, was undertaken in Des Moines, Iowa, to examine an adaptation of the Strengthening Families Program for African-American Families.  This study is part of a larger investigation at the Institute--the Family and Community Health Study. Preliminary findings from the Des Moines study have guided further revisions of the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14, for application to rural families in Georgia.  A large-scale prevention trial is now underway in Georgia, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Georgia in Athens.

The Des Moines study is part of a larger effort to improve understanding of methods for culturally-sensitive adaptations of interventions for minority populations.  This work began with efforts designed to adapt interventions and intervention assessment methods for Native Americans.  Groundwork with Native Americans has lead to a preventive intervention outcome study with Mille Lacs tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Grounded in experience with earlier projects, particularly CaFaY, the PROSPER project (PROmoting School/community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience) has been developed.  It is designed to promote the development of sustainable partnerships among schools, communities and universities.  These partnerships are intended to facilitate the delivery of scientifically-tested interventions aiming to reduce adolescent substance use or other problem behaviors and to promote youth competence.  Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the PROSPER project involves partnerships in selected communities in two states (Iowa and Pennsylvania).  A randomized trial is evaluating effectiveness on a range of outcomes, focusing on youth competencies and problem behavior reduction.   Also, the project will examine relationships among partnership functioning, intervention implementation quality, and intervention outcomes.

In January 2004, the program of research had evolved to the point that the university requested that the Board of Regents approve the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute to house the work and to create a platform for organization of a national network of partnership-based research.

Institute Highlights

Institute investigators have secured over $51 million in grants, primarily from the National Institutes of Health since late 1991.

  In 2002, a $21 million grant was received from NIDA to test an innovative community-university partnership model for the diffusion of empirically-supported youth and family programs—one that links USDA's Extension System with the Public School System.

  In 1998, a MERIT award from NIDA was one of only three ever awarded to a preventive intervention research project.

  Project Family was one of ten projects selected and described in the National Institute on Drug Abuse's (1997) Preventing Drug Abuse Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-based Guide.

  The Institute projects have produced over 117 manuscripts since 1993, addressing a wide range of family-focused preventive intervention research topics.

  The staff have participated in over 37 expert panels or technical advisory groups, primarily for federal agencies.

  Since 1997, the Iowa adaptation of the Strengthening Families Program has been recognized by three federal agencies, based upon positive findings from Project Family research. Also, Project Family findings were used to support the program’s development and refinement. Through ISU Extension, this program has been offered to families in almost one-half of Iowa's counties, in about 40 other states, and in 4 other countries.

  Since 1993, Institute staff have made over 168 presentations at professional meetings.

  About 30,000 individuals have been assessed across studies.

  Over 618 schools have been involved in various aspects of project studies and 106 schools have been recruited and retained for randomized, controlled intervention trials.

- School recruitment rate—90% 

- Student participation rate in school-based interventions—mid-90s%

-  Family participation rate in interventions—mid-50s to mid-60s%

-  Program implementation adherence rate—average 85%

-  Retention rate in family interventions—over 90%


Selected positive findings from Institute projects, including economic benefits, are summarized in the powerpoint presentation linked below.








Making a Difference with Youth, Families and Communities (.ppt)
Updated 11/03/05


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