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Substance Abuse Prevention

Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Training (SAPST)

The Iowa Department of Public Health sponsors SAPST training twice a year in collaboration with the Midwest Counterdrug Training Center in Johnston, Iowa. The goal of the SAPST is to assist professionals in the field to gain an understanding of prevention principles and the application of evidence-based prevention strategies and programs. The first four days of training cover the seven modules listed below and attendance is required for Prevention Specialist certification. The last two days of training consist of one day of application and one day of prevention ethics. The training modules are listed below:

  • Module one, entitled "Introduction," provides an orientation to the curriculum. This module contains an overview of the curriculum, welcoming exercises, and activities designed to introduce participants to various approaches to substance abuse prevention. This section provides a historical overview of drugs in America and a timeline of prevention. This section also orients participants to the emerging discipline of prevention and discusses pertinent prevention issues. The section closes with a presentation of some characteristics of effective prevention programs. This information "sets the stage" for in-depth learning in the sections which follow.
  • Module two, "Prevention Research," presents substantial content on current prevention research and theory. Three theoretical orientations are reviewed in this section. This module provides in-depth information on evidence-based prevention research findings and prevention principles. Participants explore how to use these principles to improve the effectiveness of prevention activities.
  • Module three, entitled "Prevention Planning," presents a five-step process, known as the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF), for building a successful prevention plan. It contains information on community assessment and readiness, capacity building, strategic planning, the Institute of Medicine's prevention classification scheme, implementation, and evaluation.
  • Module four, entitled "Evaluation" presents the logic model as the basis for evaluation, defines key concepts used in research and evaluation, and demonstrates how evaluation can be used to enhance and improve prevention services. Participants practice designing a logic model and evaluation plan, developing appropriate evaluation questions, selecting evaluation measures and data sources, and using evaluation results to enhance effectiveness.
    (Parts of Modules 5, 6, and 7 are addressed within the training)
  • Module five, entitled "The Cultural Context of Prevention," approaches all communities as communities of diversity. Elements of culture and cultural values are explored with regard to substances and youth. Discussion centers on similarities as well as differences and on sharing elements of culture among participants. Attention to cultural sensitivity and appropriateness is considered relative to each step of the SPF, to prevention professionals, and to prevention services.
  • Module six, entitled "Using Human Development in Prevention" contains information on the emotional, social, and moral development of humans. Participants apply prevention strategies that focus on these areas of human development to prevention services. This section is not meant to be an exhaustive study of the multiple theories and perspectives in human development, but is intended to encourage the design of developmentally appropriate prevention services.
  • Module seven, entitled "The Media and Prevention," explores media advocacy, media literacy, and social marketing/social norming approaches to utilizing media in prevention. Skills to advocate for prevention and gain access to media, critically "read" media messages, and design a social marketing campaign are taught. Ineffective media approaches, such as scare tactics, are also discussed.

Training registration:

For training dates and registration, go to

For more information:

Debbie Synhorst at (515) 281-4404