Primary Prevention is a public health term, and a new way of thinking about the prevention of family violence. It is comprehensive, community-driven, and community specific. It builds long-term solutions and focuses on preventing violence before it occurs.

Primary prevention asks Why? In order to stop domestic violence, we must ask why we are faced with this problem in the first place. What are the root causes? Most people, from all sectors of our society, do not believe that domestic violence is acceptable. Despite this belief, other factors still influence individual and group behavior, creating the conditions that allow domestic violence to continue. The public health community refers to these factors as risk factors. Risk factors can be individual, or they can be environmental. Where do people get mixed messages about relationships, violence, and power? How do economic factors play in? What role do media and entertainment have? What about schools, families, religious institutions? Primary prevention approaches recognize that there are many answers to these questions, and engage community members in analyzing and targeting the risk factors that are relevant in their communities.

Primary prevention asks What will make a difference? Just as it takes many different moves to turn a large boat with a full head of steam, making the broad-based changes that will end domestic violence also requires multiple strategies. One set of strategies involves identifying and working to reduce risk factors. Another key approach is identifying and strengthening protective factors, the assets in an environment that promote healthy behavior, healthy relationships, and safe communities. Focusing on protective factors allows for prevention approaches that build on the positives, rather than simply seeking to fix the negatives.

Primary prevention asks Who? Many people are needed to play many different roles in the multiple strategies necessary for effective prevention. Effective prevention approaches constantly seek new partners, who bring new information, new influence, new experience, and new insight—and new potential for solutions to end the violence.

The Social Ecological model and the Spectrum of Prevention both demonstrate the varying levels at which effective primary prevention programming takes place. Both tools are useful in thinking strategically and planning for primary prevention efforts.


CommunityEducation and Domestic Violence: Primary Prevention, Risk Reduction, and Awareness
Designed to distinguish between three common forms of prevention, education, and outreach. The handout gives brief descriptions of the focus, target audience, and goals of the three strategies. This is a useful tool in identifying where current programming efforts lie and how to develop primary prevention programming.

SocialEcological Model of Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use a four-level, social ecological model to identify potential areas for prevention activities. The socio-ecological model recognizes the interwoven relationship that exists between the individual and their environment. This model illustrates those levels of influence.

Spectrumof Prevention
Like the Social Ecological Model, the Spectrum of Prevention identifies multiple levels of intervention and encourages moving beyond the prevention that is simply about teaching healthy behaviors. The Spectrum’s six levels for strategy development are a framework for a more comprehensive understanding and implementation of prevention programming. For more information on using the Spectrum of Prevention for program planning, click here;.