Guidelines for Integrating Youth Development into Health Department Programs
Base program goals on a youth development approach. Adopt program goals that support integration of prevention of risk behaviors with promotion of youth development. Incorporate the principles of youth development into program philosophy and design. Create environments conducive to assisting young people initiate and sustain changes in risk-taking behaviors.
Make sure that everyone involved has a core knowledge base about youth development. All staff working with prevention programs need a common language and understanding of youth development. Make available written guidance that clearly explains youth development in a prevention programming context.
Offer practical assistance in putting the principles of youth development into action. Provide initial and ongoing assistance regarding how to integrate and implement youth development principles into prevention programming. Focus on assistance that is useful and pertinent to each individual program and use multiple methods (training, facilitated small group discussions and exercises, distribution of relevant materials, through ongoing interactions, etc.) to provide assistance.
Promote youth development through funding decisions. Challenge applicants for funding for prevention programs for young people to design programs that will deliver effective prevention interventions in a positive youth development framework. Structure selection criteria to recognize that proposals designed to serve young people from a strength-based perspective, not solely from a deficit-based approach.
Encourage programs to offer increasingly meaningful opportunities and roles for young people. Support program goals that promote the concept that young people should have a voice in programs, agencies and communities. Show how opportunities for meaningful roles for young people can be infused throughout a program design, including opportunities for planning, delivering and evaluating services, as well as advisory and decision-making responsibilities.
Facilitate opportunities for programs to share successful strategies. Hold regular meetings of program staff to explore youth development strategies and sharing experiences to help build programs' capacity and expertise. Consider how these meetings can assist in the development of relationships among program staff that can ultimately result in improved program performance.
Integrate youth development into prevention programming with the support of academic and research institutions. Explore how program and health department staff can benefit from the expertise on youth development available from academic and research institutions. Approach these institutions, noting that they may also benefit from exposure to the practical application of theoretical youth development principles. Nurture relationships that results in the development of specific materials and seek ways to contribute to the youth development literature and to the youth development knowledge base.
Include youth development outcomes in program evaluation activities. Enhance success of prevention programs through ongoing assessment of performance. Promote collaboration among programs, Health Department staff and the research/academic institutions to develop methods and indicators for use in measuring impact of the youth development initiatives.