An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Written by: TC Cassidy, Director of Technical Assistance, National Safe Place Network

By the time someone has been trafficked the system has already failed at what should be its primary goal: PREVENTION. We need to work to prevent human trafficking from occurring so the need for services doesn’t exceed the availability of services. Prevention efforts are not often sensational; however, focusing on preventing some of the risk factors that lead to an increased vulnerability to human trafficking will prove the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Prevention ranges from low or moderate cost activities such as awareness campaigns to help inform the community as well as potential victims of the risk of becoming a trafficking victim to more expensive solutions such as strong enforcement of laws through arrests and prosecutions of traffickers.

In due course prevention efforts will decrease the number of people who perpetrate trafficking and the number of people being trafficked. Prevention efforts aim to reduce risk factors while promoting protective factors.

Prevention efforts:

  • provide information, resources, and safety planning skills to potential victims;
  • attempt to reduce the likelihood that an individual will become a trafficker;
  • change societal norms that blame victims;
  • empower community members to recognize and respond to instances of trafficking; and,
  • advocate for changes to policies and laws to reduce the occurrence of trafficking across vulnerable populations.

Nine Principles of Effective Prevention Programs

In an article titled “What works in prevention: Principles of Effective Prevention Programs,” the authors considered research from four areas (substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, school failure, and juvenile delinquency and violence) to identify characteristics consistently linked with successful prevention programs. The Center on Disease Control’s (CDC) Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership Through Alliances (DELTA) projects, which ended in 2013, used these nine principles as guidelines when developing their prevention programs.

The nine principles identified by Nation, et al. identified in their research indicate effective prevention programs should:

  1. Be Comprehensive: Strategies should include multiple components and affect multiple settings to address a wide range of risk and protective factors of the target problem.
  2. Incorporate Varied Teaching Methods: Strategies should include multiple teaching methods, including some type of active, skills-based component.
  3. Administer Sufficient Dosage: Participants need to be exposed to enough of the activity for it to have an effect.
  4. Be Theory Driven: Preventive strategies should have a scientific justification or logical rationale.
  5. Foster Positive Relationships: Programs should foster strong, stable, positive relationships between children and adults.
  6. Be Appropriately Timed: Program activities should happen at a time (developmentally) that can have maximal impact in a participant’s life.
  7. Be Socio-Culturally Relevant: Programs should be tailored to fit within cultural beliefs and practices of specific groups as well as local community norms.
  8. Include an Outcome Evaluation: A systematic outcome evaluation is necessary to determine whether a program or strategy worked.
  9. Be Delivered by Well-Trained Staff: Programs need to be implemented by staff members who are sensitive, competent, and have received sufficient training, support, and supervision.[1]

National Safe Place Network would add an additional principle to this list as we believe prevention programs/efforts should address the intersectionality of human trafficking. Considering intersectionality of risk and oppression factors, such as age, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc., will ensure those responsible for delivering/managing the prevention program/effort consider their impact when conducting prevention work with individuals and groups within specific populations.

Please visit to access free resources on preventing human trafficking in your community.

[1] Nation, M., Crusto, C., Wandersman, A., Kumpfer, K. L., Seybolt, D., Morrissey-Kane, E., & Davino, K. (2003). What works in prevention: Principles of Effective Prevention Programs. American Psychologist, 58, 449-456.

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