Best Practices


Why are best practices important?

Adopting programs and strategies that are known to work promotes cost-effectiveness and ensures accountability. In addition, structuring activities using a best practice approach has been demonstrated to increase the effectiveness of programs.

What is the difference between best practices, blueprints, researched-based programs, model programs and promising programs?

There are many terms that are used to identify programs or strategies that work. The difference between the terms is in the various methods used for selection. A simple way of understanding the intensity of program evaluation and effectiveness is through the levels of effectiveness as described by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Center for Substance Abuse Prevention rates evaluation on 5 levels as follows:


  • Level 5: Multiple site replication studies
  • Level 4: Meta-analyses, expert review, and peer consensus
  • Level 3: Single trial effectiveness
  • Level 2: Program evaluations and source documents
  • Level 1: Testimonials, newspaper reports, or non-refereed publications

How are best practices identified?

There are many methods of identifying best practices, and they vary by organization. Please read about the methods to understand the level of rigor used in identifying programs and strategies that work. Some organizations, such as The Promising Practices Network, employ a panel of experts who identify grant programs that have been proven to work, using standards of effectiveness based on program evaluations.

Other organizations, such as The Community Guide to Preventive Services, use task forces to develop recommendations through a regimented process that assesses the quality of available evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness identified through the literature, and/or submitted to some evaluative process.


What is the difference between best practice strategies and programs?

Best practice strategies are ways of implementing programs that have been shown effective through research and may include the following: social marketing, youth empowerment, policy change, engineering, coalition building, etc.

Examples could include increasing the price of alcohol or tobacco, enforcing the seatbelt law (like 'Click It or Ticket'), engineering or using recommendations for safe playground designs and reducing out-of-pocket costs to increase vaccination rates. Principles for prevention for various strategies can be found at Changing the Larger Environment: Critical Components and The Community Guide for Preventive Services.

Best practice programs are specific programs often with 'curricula' or identified methods for program implementation that have been shown to be effective over time and often in multiple sites. Examples of these include: Life Skills, DARE to be You, Preparing for the Drug Free Years, etc.