PULLMAN, Wash. – A new doctoral degree program at Washington State University focuses on the science behind preventing some of the thorniest social issues in the nation rather than costly, after-the-fact treatment or intervention.
The WSU Department of Human Development will launch the new Ph.D. in Prevention Science program with a guest lecture by one of the nation’s leading experts in prevention science, Rico Catalano, at 4 p.m., Monday, Oct. 8, in the WSU Honors College Lounge. The session, entitled “The Research Base for Prevention Science” is free and open to the public. Catalano’s visit is sponsored jointly by Human Development and WSU Health and Wellness Services.
“When it comes to issues like teenage alcoholism, teen pregnancy and childhood obesity, we know that prevention is less expensive and more effective than treatment after the fact,” said Tom Power, director of the human development department, “and yet many of the evidence-based programs that actually work aren’t being used.”
Power said one focus of the new degree program will be translating research-based prevention programs for practical use.
“Right now the biggest issue is dissemination of these programs,” he said. “How do you deliver them in the real world?”
Another issue is the efficacy of research-based programs when real-world users change them to fit the circumstances at hand. “We are doing studies to see what happens when people make changes to proven curricula,” Power said, noting that one of those effectiveness trials is being conducted with WSU Extension’s Strengthening Families program. “We are at a really critical stage in the prevention field. We have the programs, now how do we implement them in a way that is sustainable.”
The new degree program is interdisciplinary and is built on strong collaborations among WSU programs in human development health communication, community nursing, educational communication and Extension. The program also features strong collaboration with WSU health and wellness services to bring a prevention science approach to student health and well-being.
Power noted that the prevention field is “relatively new,” however, guest lecturer Catalano is one of the discipline’s veterans.
Catalano is the Bartley Dobb Professor for the Study and Prevention of Violence and the director of the Social Development Research Group in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington. For more than 30 years, he has led research and program development to promote positive youth development and prevent problem behavior. Specifically, his work has focused on discovering risk factors for positive and problem behavior, designing and evaluating programs to address these factors, and using that knowledge to improve prevention service systems in states and communities. He has published more than 275 articles and book chapters. His work has been recognized by practitioners, criminologists and prevention scientists.