The Prevention Research Center (PRC) was founded in 1983. It is the Berkeley office of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). PRC is one of approximately twenty national centers funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and is the only one that specializes in prevention of alcohol misuse and related problems.
Our mission is to conduct basic and applied research into the social and physical environments that affect the etiology of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use and other health-related behaviors, the social ecological contexts in which these behaviors take place, and the risks related to those contexts. This research naturally leads to the development and testing of innovative prevention programs and policies that can be implemented at local, state, and national levels. Research at the Center focuses upon improving our understanding of these environments, supports efficacy studies to determine the effects, safety, and costs of environmental preventive interventions under optimal conditions, and promotes studies to test the effectiveness, safety and costs of new interventions under natural conditions.
We take a multidisciplinary approach to prevention research that emphasizes integration across levels of explanation from the biological to the behavioral and social sciences to enhance our understanding of the impacts of environments on problems. PRC’s continued interest in theoretical integration across levels of explanation and fields of study leads to the development and application of feasible and effective policies and programs for the reduction of health-related problems.
The research focus at PRC includes studies of families, the workplace, drinking venues, as well as global studies of the impacts of state and national policy problems. Our research questions are both micro- and macro-ecological in nature. For example, at the micro-level we consider the momentary day-to-day conditions that affect underage access to alcohol, use, and problems. At the macro-level we consider regional social and economic processes that couple alcohol outlets to problems.
The scope and magnitude of these processes are just now beginning to be understood. In our current NIAAA Center Grant we take advantage of a unique opportunity to assess the outcomes of, and examine the scientific bases for, community-based environmental preventive interventions on youth and young adult drinking. We also examine the social and behavioral mechanisms by which the routine drinking activities of parents lead to maladaptive parenting practices and child abuse and neglect. This research draws upon mixed methods that integrate qualitative and quantitative data, ecological momentary assessments with survey data, survey data with archival ecological measures, and capitalizes on survey and archival methods for evaluation research. Finally, we continue our focus on providing education and dissemination activities suitably directed at the community level, building upon our strengths in community based preventive intervention research.
Since PRC’s inception as an NIAAA Center, we have expanded into new areas of health outcomes research including studies of tobacco use, reproductive health, diabetes, and health disparities using a socio-ecological model to better understand micro and macro level environmental risk factors affecting these outcomes.
Science to Practice
An important focus of PRC is on translational research that links science to practice. Research has shown that it takes nearly 20 years for even a small percentage of basic medical research findings to be incorporated into practice. For community prevention, the gap may be even greater. Research and synthesis at PRC is intended to further the translation of science to practice by:
- encouraging and supporting efforts to translate research to practice and policy;
- encouraging and supporting efforts to translate practice to research;
- developing the capacity to put principles developed by translational research into practice by directly conducting and evaluating prevention interventions in the field.
Translational research at PRC addresses the fundamental mechanisms of organizational and community change. The identification of these mechanisms is the “basic science” of translational research. Translational research at PRC includes observational studies of current practices and community or organizational capacities, formative research to design interventions aimed at organizational change, designing tools for facilitating adoption and implementation, experimental designs of divergent implementation strategies, and generally bringing experience from practitioners back into the re-design of prevention strategies that may not survive the transition from efficacy to effectiveness.
Significance of the Center Goals and Research Theme
Problems associated with substance use are a serious public health concern. Understanding and preventing such problems not only benefits our communities, it can also help society on a global scale. The misuse of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs carry substantial cost burdens annually for the U.S. Diseases, injuries and deaths relating to these substances and their associated social costs are broadly experienced throughout the nation.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, annual societal costs* related to crime, lost work productivity and healthcare that are associated with use of these substances impact the nation financially in the following way:
|Substance||Health Care Costs||Total Costs to Society|
|Tobacco||$96 billion||$193 billion|
|Alcohol||$30 billion||$235 billion|
|Illicit Drugs||$11 billion||$193 billion|
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5745a3.htm
- Rehm J., Mathers C., Popova S., Thavorncharoensap M. , Teerawattananon Y. , Patra J.
Global burden of disease and injury and economic cost attributable to alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders. Lancet, (2009) Jun 27;373(9682):2223-2233.
- National Drug Intelligence Center (2010). National Threat Assessment: The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society. Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice.
Each year 1 in every 5 deaths in the U.S. is the result of smoking cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cigarette smoking results in more than 480,000 premature deaths annually. Another 41,000 nonsmoking Americans die from serious diseases attributed to secondhand smoke exposure.1,2 Deaths and disease resulting from tobacco use are preventable. There are community interventions that can raise awareness and help us work together to decrease life loss and illness and associated costs.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use: Fast Facts. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm#toll. Updated April 2014. Accessed December 12, 2014.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Nonsmokers’ Exposure to Secondhand Smoke-United States, 1999-2008. MMWR. 2010;59(35):1141-1466. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5935a4.htm?s_cid=mm5935a4_w. Accessed December 12, 2014.
Approximately 88,000 deaths are attributed to alcohol use annually. It is the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm). Alcohol-impaired driving accounts for a high percentage of driving fatalities and auto crashes. Alcohol is also involved in a substantial percentage of recreational injuries.
In 2012, 17 million adults age 18 and older experienced an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), additionally an estimated 855,000 adolescents ages 12-17 had an AUD. (SAMHSA, http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs2012/NSDUH-DetTabs2012/HTML/NSDUH-DetTabsSect5peTabs1to56-2012.htm#Tab5.8A).
More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems. (SAMHSA, http://media.samhsa.gov/data/spotlight/Spot061ChildrenOfAlcoholics2012.pdf)
For more research-based information on drinking and its impact go to: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health
Illicit Drug Use
In the United States, 114 people die daily as a result of a drug overdose, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments (ED) for the misuse or abuse of drugs.1,2 According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) an estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant, or tranquilizer) in 2012, and the state where you live can make a difference. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/opioid-prescribing/
Drug use is highest among teens and young adults in their 20’s. The most commonly used illicit drug is marijuana, which after alcohol use has the highest rate of dependence or abuse among all drugs. Marijuana use has increased about 7% since 2007. (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends)
Death rates from drug overdose have been rising steadily since 1992. In 2012, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes for persons 25 to 64 years old.1
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2014) Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Highlights of the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) findings on drug-related emergency department visits. The DAWN Report. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2013. Available from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k13/DAWN127/sr127-DAWN-highlights.htm
The main goal of our research program is to understand the individual, social, political and environmental circumstances related to adverse health outcomes and to design, implement, and evaluate interventions to alleviate these outcomes. The Prevention Research Center (PRC) recognizes how the complex issues surrounding substance use affect all communities across the nation and our dedicated team of researchers study mechanisms that can help prevent resulting alcohol, tobacco, drug, and other social problems. Our research continues to yield important tools and findings relevant to the prevention of these problems.