A Healthy Environment- A Community Responsibility

Our individual health and well-being is a vital component of our community health and well being. Aliive Roberts County’s approach to prevention is to focus on environmental prevention measures to educate and empower residents to incorporate healthy choices into their every day lives to achieve physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of individuals. Positive individual health and wellness choices will impact community wellness.

What is Environmental Prevention?

Successful prevention programs incorporate looking at both the individual and the environment in addressing a public health issue. Youth in our communities, states and nation engage in high risk substance use behaviors which result in losses related to physical and emotional health, academic standing, sport/athletic eligibility, legal freedoms and social status. Alcohol and drug related behavior does not occur in isolation; rather it is shaped by our physical and social settings. Individual prevention strategies focus on helping people develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to change behavior. Environmental prevention strategies focus on creating an environment that makes it easier for people to act in healthy ways.

Research shows that the most effective prevention programs are those that incorporate both individual and environmental approaches. In other words, it is not enough just to convince a teen that underage substance use is harmful to their developing brain or provide them with the skills to resist peer pressure, we also need to limit access and availability to alcohol and other drugs by creating awareness in families and the community of how teens are obtaining substances and then work to limit those access points.

A shared responsibility for prevention initiatives in Roberts County and on the Lake Traverse Reservation will create conditions that support positive choices about alcohol and other drug use and reduce high-risk teen behaviors. Collaboration among community leaders, school administrators, parents and residents in looking at substance use policies, laws and enforcement practices, limiting access and availability through homes and retail outlets and sharing a common message and belief about the risks of use will help to reduce high-risk behavior and harm to individuals, families and our community. Community norms and perceptions that discourage substance abuse will support policies that will keep teens healthy and safe; in turn policies will create standards of behavioral expectations making it easier for teens to engage in healthy and safe behaviors and harder to engage in unhealthy, high-risk behaviors.

Environmental prevention strategies were initiated 20 years ago to tackle the public health issue of smoking and have been credited with significantly reducing the smoking rates of youth and adults in our country. Prevention professionals agree that these multi- strategy/multi-setting approaches will be successful in creating a cultural shift in community norms and perceptions regarding the acceptability of underage substance use.

What Can You Do?

The cornerstone of an effective community substance abuse prevention effort is a coalition comprised of leaders and stake holders from key sectors of a community including: parents, youth, business leaders, law enforcement, school and public service officials, health care professionals, faith-based organizations, media, youth serving representatives, state and local government agencies, social service providers and other community representatives. Multi-sector, multi strategy approaches to substance abuse prevention, implemented by community coalitions has been proven to reduce alcohol and other drug abuse significantly.

Our coalition meets regularly sharing open and honest dialogue on the high-risk behaviors and substance abuse issues facing our youth. All members of the community are welcome to attend Aliive-Roberts County meetings to gain awareness of our community efforts. Meetings are held the first Wednesday of the month from 11 am -12:30 pm. We do provide lunch at our meetings. You are welcome to participate simply as a meeting observer or you are welcome to become involved in working on our initiatives, any level of commitment is valued. For more information, to share your insights and ideas or to join our email list please contact at 605-698-3477 or at saram@aliive.org.