Solving the Multiple Health Risk Epidemic Among America's Youth

Solving the Multiple Health Risk Epidemic Among America's Youth

There are three approaches to addressing the epidemic of multiple and co-occurring risk behaviors harming America’s youth and adults.  They include dealing with the problem in a: 1) piecemeal fashion, 2) serial fashion, or 3) integrated fashion. 

The Piecemeal Approach

The piecemeal strategy for addressing the problem of multiple health risks means maintaining the status quo.  That is, addressing individual youth and adult risk behaviors as single, independent, and non-concurring problems. 

For example, many if not most prevention programs target individual substance use behaviors as though they were unrelated, like underage alcohol consumption, separate from and unassociated with cigarette smoking and marijuana use.  It is equally common to find health programs that address individual chronic disease risk habits as separate if not competing health issues, such as physical inactivity, versus drinking too many sugared beverages, or a lack of vegetable and fruit consumption. 

These scattered and unrelated efforts spread thin the limited funding available for prevention and health efforts, and result in inequitable and inadequate funding across health risks.  The piecemeal approach is the most prevalent, but least cost-effective strategy for addressing multiple risk behaviors among today’s US population.  

The Serial Approach

This strategy addresses multiple health risks in serial fashion, one at a time.  Perhaps the best illustration of this method is school health education which in the past has covered a number of important health risks in a sequential manner, but typically as though they were independent of each other. 

The serial approach is better than the piecemeal strategy by targeting more than a single risk behavior or health issue.  However, the serial method misses the opportunity to draw connections among risk habits, and deal with the common problem of co-occurring risk behaviors.   

The serial approach is slightly more cost-effective than the piecemeal method in that multiple health risks can be addressed in a single setting.  However, this approach is usually quite time consuming and therefore not very practical, particularly in busy and multi-purpose settings such as schools and health clinics.   

The Integrated Approach

The only approach that directly addresses the problem of multiple and co-occurring risk behaviors among youth and adults is the integrated strategy.  This method allows seemingly divergent health risks, such as substance use behaviors, chronic disease risk behaviors and even wellness-enhancing habits, to be targeted within a single intervention. 

Integrated programs provide a more holistic and efficient strategy by simultaneously addressing multiple risk habits in one setting and one program.  The integrated approach recognizes the co-existence of, and connections among, multiple risks and purposefully links health behaviors to increase the probability of enhancing program strength and breadth. 

Integrated interventions can also be tailored to individual health behaviors, increasing participant, parent and provider interest, salience and participation.  The integrated approach is the most cost-effective of strategies for addressing the current US epidemic of multiple risk behaviors.

Integrated Prevention Plus Wellness Programs

Prevention Plus Wellness, LLC provides the only programs in the country that integrate wellness promotion with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drug use prevention for youth and adults.  Each of these programs is based on the innovative Prevention Plus Wellness Model which uses wellness images of youth and adults to cost-effectively connect the avoidance of substance use with increasing health and fitness promoting habits using brief motivational prevention and recovery interventions for professionals and parents. 

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