Outreach Coordinator's Handbook
Jeff E. Brooks-Harris, J. Judd Harbin, Laura W. Doto, Paulette M. Stronczek, & Bert H. Epstein
2. Outreach as Prevention
- The prevention literature talks about three different
types of prevention: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.
- Primary prevention includes efforts directed toward the
entire population in order to improve resilience and
optimize healthy functioning so that risk for
dysfunction, disease, or distress does not develop. This
type of intervention prevents risk.
- In his 1996 Counseling Psychologist article on
wellness, Lightsey reported that optimism and generalized
self-efficacy were two reliable predictors of healthy
psychological functioning. Outreach activities geared
toward enhancing optimism and generalized self-efficacy
("self-confidence") could be examples of
primary prevention efforts.
- These primary prevention activities might include
collaborative actions with other campus agencies,
consultation with administrative units, and educational
efforts directed toward the entire campus community (so
called "proactive" presentations).
- Because primary prevention involves targeting everyone in
a population in order to prevent distressing situations
from starting, one example would be providing alcohol
awareness programming for all students at your university
in order to prevent the negative consequences of alcohol
abuse from occurring.
- Secondary prevention involves efforts directed toward one
or more specific sub-population(s) in order to reduce the
risk for and incidence of dysfunction, disease, or
distress. The condition already exists in these groups
but not others or is affecting these groups more than
others so that these particular groups have a higher
probability of experiencing the condition.
- Secondary prevention targets individuals within groups
that have been deemed "at risk." The
individuals targeted, however, have not developed the
dysfunction or disease. This type of intervention
prevents dysfunction, distress, or disease.
- Effective secondary prevention efforts seem to
pre-require a needs assessment. You need to know which
groups of individuals are at risk and what they are at
risk for. From there, you can collaborate with those
groups to determine why they are at risk and how best to
prevent dysfunction or disease.
- For example, if institutional research suggests that
fraternity men and sorority women are more likely to
binge drink or otherwise abuse alcohol than non-Greek
students, then secondary prevention efforts would aim at
helping drinkers in the Greek system not to become
- Similarly, if institutional research suggests that
non-Greek students are more prone to depression than
Greek students, then secondary prevention efforts would
intervene among non-depressed Independents to help them
not to develop depression.
- Traditional campus "outreach," where a group
has, essentially, done its own informal needs assessment
and then requests a presentation, also would fall in the
category of secondary prevention.
- Traditional "workshops," where a counseling
center has determined that certain needs exist in the
campus community, might be viewed as either primary or
secondary prevention. A workshop can be considered
primary prevention if it intends to prevent those in low
risk (or no risk) groups from becoming affected. A
workshop is secondary prevention if it intends to prevent
further difficulties for those individuals who are at
- One might also question whether the college campus is
regarded as its own "population" or a
"subgroup" of the community. In the later case,
general workshops on subjects for college students (for
example, test anxiety) could then be regarded as
- Tertiary prevention involves efforts directed toward
individuals or small groups in order to reduce the impact
of dysfunction, disease, or distress; to reduce the
duration of the condition; or to minimize its recurrence.
This type of intervention prevents exacerbation or
complications after dysfunction, distress, or disease has
- This is the traditional realm of counseling and
psychotherapy. From the secondary prevention examples,
Greek students who are binge drinking and Independent
students who are depressed would present for services.
- Tertiary preventive efforts would try to minimize the
impact of the disorder on the individual. We would
identify the domains where the disorder has not affected
the person yet, and we would strive to keep disruption
from occurring at all in those domains.
- Treatment differs from tertiary prevention in that
treatment seeks to restore functioning in affected areas.
Tertiary prevention seeks to maintain functioning in
unaffected areas. When a disorder is progressive, this
distinction blurs. Both tertiary prevention and treatment
strive to minimize disruption as the disorder or its
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