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June 20, 2017

Planning community prevention part 3

Get to know your community

You’ve asked the questions that need to be asked and considered the wider context: what’s next? Now you need to think about how your plan will work in your community.

Find partners in your community

Before taking action, consider who else may have an interest or connection to the drug-related issues in your community, and what they could offer your team.

Think laterally. Ask yourself: “Who does our target group come in contact with?”

There are many people and organisations who might already be working on AOD prevention in your community, or whose work touches on the risk and protective factors that influence drug-related harm. These include:

  • local councils;
  • primary health care providers (e.g. general practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, midwives, allied health workers, school health nurses);
  • non-government health and human service agencies;
  • alcohol and drug workers;
  • police;
  • residents groups (e.g. Neighbourhood Watch and progress associations);
  • traders and business associations;
  • community development and health promotion workers;
  • youth workers;
  • Indigenous liaison and other workers; and
  • workers promoting cultural and linguistic diversity in community programming.

Some of these people can provide recommendations on how to start while others might be in a position to take on leadership, coordination or information-gathering roles.

Some organisations could provide facilities, resources or services as part of their existing work, or you might find that they are already running activities that you have planned. In this case, think about how you can work together to run complementary programs and develop a whole-of-community approach.

Gather information

Information is a powerful ingredient when planning. Generally, the more the better. Good information increases the chances of your project responding to what’s actually going on; as opposed to being based on sometimes unchallenged and long-held misconceptions, media reports, or limited anecdotal evidence around an AOD problem.

Good data also helps you build a story that explains the imperative for action. This will help you gather support from others and funding for your program. Gathering data is a particularly important step in program planning, as not having a clear idea of the problem is a common stumbling block for many local prevention efforts.

Gather more information on:

  • demographic characteristics about your community (e.g. around socio-economic, age, education, and/or employment levels);
  • the patterns of AOD use and dependency, both in your community and in the wider population; and
  • primary prevention programs.

These organisations are good sources of information:

  • Local councils have relevant information about the community that they gather for planning purposes.
  • Regionally-based state government health staff have information available through initiatives such as Primary Health Networksand community health plans.
  • Local pharmacists often have information relevant to local trends in prescription drug use and methadone service use.
  • State government information is available at the local area level from sources such as the Australian Bureau of StatisticsAustralian Institute of Health and Welfareor .id community profile statistics.
  • Universities usually have a department with a health focus. People working in these departments may have access to relevant research and might know other relevant professionals working in your community.

Information from these sources can be supplemented with your own research conducted through local surveys or focus groups.

Engage the community

Drug issues tend to be very emotive, and many people have strong opinions. While it may be tempting to jump straight to designing solutions there is another recommended step to take – engaging with the community.

It’s better to get to know people one-on-one and engage relevant organisations from the start of your planning.

What does the community think?

Once relationships have been established, and sufficient information on local patterns of drug use has been gathered, it can be useful to hold a scoping meeting to:

  • gauge the community’s views and needs;
  • discover the community’s preferred future;
  • provide information about potential drug prevention activities;
  • invite questions; and
  • identify skills and opportunities within the community.

One of the stakeholder organisations, like the local council, may be able to provide a venue and help promote this meeting. Strategies like inviting an interesting speaker, or timing the meeting to coincide with the launch of a report or a national awareness day, can help attract interest.

Further resources