Environmental Strategies

Environmental prevention is divided into two subcategories in order to distinguish between

  1. Activities which focus on legal and regulatory initiatives, and
  2. Those which relate to the service and action-oriented initiatives.

Environmental strategies consist of long-term approaches that focus on changing conditions in the shared social environment that contribute to, or protect against, problems and consequences (e.g., social norms and availability of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs). 

For the purposes of environmental prevention, shared social environments include schools, neighborhoods and other collections of universal populations, as well as community settings. 

Environmental strategies seek population-level change, are nearly always universal in their reach, and frequently take the form of ongoing policies and practices.  Policies may be formally codified rules, regulations, standards, or laws that are designed to prevent problems (e.g., minimum-age purchase laws for alcohol and tobacco), or informal and unwritten standards and norms (e.g., decisions to prioritize prosecution of certain offenses, such as sales of age-restricted products to minors). 

Practices are activities that are based on implementing policies designed to prevent problems and consequences (e.g., Responsible Beverage Service Training, sobriety checkpoints).

Effective environmental prevention strategies require a number of supportive activities from other strategy classifications, such as education, information dissemination and community-based process.  Accordingly, it can sometimes be difficult for community planners and prevention practitioners to accurately determine whether—and which of—their prevention activities are truly environmental in nature.  Environmental theory has identified three key focus areas of environmental prevention that provides a useful framework for determining whether a course of action constitutes an environmental approach.  Under this framework, environmental strategies constitute a comprehensive, population-focused course of action intended to reduce problems and consequences by:

  • Changing population-level norms,
  • Reducing availability of substances and opportunities to engage in negative behaviors, and
  • Passing and enforcing laws, policies and practices.