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How far can you move the needle on bullying prevention?

Oct 4, 2017|By: Maureen Perkins, Public Health Analyst with the Health Resources and Services Administration and StopBullying.gov Ed Board member

Measuring prevention of bullying can be difficult. Over time, we can see if the number of incidents is decreasing, but determining if prevention efforts are working along the way remains a challenge. Recently, a team of bullying and violence prevention experts came together to figure out how best to measure change. After an exhaustive review of research, the Assessing Prevention and Implementing Change resource was developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). It contains two main tools developed for state health departments: the Bullying Prevention Capacity Assessment, and the Bullying Prevention Change Package and Driver Diagram. Schools, daycare providers, summer camp programs, youth sports, and other clubs and venues where youth convene can also use them to find meaningful strategies to promote empathy, civility, and inclusion to prevent bullying.  Here is how the resources work.

Assessing Prevention Capacity

This resource looks at six areas of organizational capacity to determine how evidence-informed their bullying prevention efforts are. Organizations can use the tool, which guides them through a series of strategic ideas, to score their readiness for addressing activities that support bullying prevention. A lower score means a lower capacity for bullying prevention.  These scores can point organizations to gaps in their prevention efforts. Once you have a score, the low scoring areas will be a good indicator of where to look for change concepts. The six areas include:

  • Partnering with schools, community agencies, and organizations
  • Partnering with other state agencies or organizations
  • Providing training or disseminating information to stakeholders in prevention
  • Identifying and reporting bullying incidents
  • Identifying, facilitating, and implementing evidence-based interventions for bullying prevention
  • Identifying and disseminating information for groups at increased risk of bullying

For organizations taking the assessment for the first time, the score can serve as a baseline and be used to measure changes in capacity over time. If capacity is improving year after year, this means that prevention efforts are being driven more by the evidence, and therefore are more likely to impact bullying.

Using Research-based Approaches to Effect Change

A change package is an evidence-based set of strategies that an organization can implement to improve processes or programs. The change package and driver diagram (an intuitive diagram that outlines the paths to change and how to get there) were created after identifying the strongest ways to create change. The evidence-informed and evidence-based strategies included in the change package have demonstrated impact on bullying and other related outcomes. The primary drivers of change align with the areas scored in the assessment, so it is easy for an organization to identify where to focus. Organizations considering the strategies in the change package can review the options and determine which fit best with the goals, resources, and school culture, and then prioritize and select the best combination to support efforts throughout the year.

Along with the strategies, there are referenced resources for more information on approaches, models, and effective implementation to support the prevention efforts taking place.

Because bullying is a public health concern and can affect children psychologically, physically, academically, and socially, any organization working with children needs to understand how best to prevent bullying. Although the Maternal and Child Health Bureau in the Health Resources and Services Administration developed these resources primarily to support state health departments, these resources can be useful for other organizations.

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