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What is Prevention Science?

Prevention Science is a framework for research on how to prevent and/or moderate negative medical, social, and emotional impacts before they occur. Over the past four decades, the science of prevention in medicine has grown steadily.

Pediatricians have helped drive the higher use of screening and intervention practices in primary care. Common practices – such as immunizations and well-child visits – are now enhanced by routine screening and guidance. The goal of this is to prevent a wide range of developmental, behavioral and social problems.

Why is Prevention Science so Important?

During the early years of life, a child’s brain grows fast. Nearly a million neural connections are produced each second. This brain development is also shaped by the experiences that children have during these years. This includes factors such as proper nutrition, social supports, family stability, and much more. It also includes exposure to negative impacts, or adverse childhood experiences.

The socioeconomic determinants of health are largely responsible for health disparities and inequities. Evidence shows that preventive interventions can have profound, measurable, and long-lasting effects on the health outcomes of children and youth. This includes behavioral health outcomes.

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Components of Prevention Science


The prevalence, distribution, and determinants of the problem in time and space. Epidemiological investigations can be carried out through surveillance and descriptive studies to determine its extent.


The causes of such positive or negative outcomes, with an emphasis on risk and protective factors.

Efficacy Trials

Scientific experiments that test the preventive intervention programs ability to prevent the problem under favorable conditions. Under these optimal conditions, the researcher has control over the intervention and how it is delivered.

Effectiveness Trials

Scientific experiments that test the preventive intervention programs ability to prevent the problem under real world conditions. The setting and the kinds of people in the experiment should be very similar to the actual targeted population in a particular location.

Dissemination Research

Analyzes how tested and effective prevention intervention programs may be spread to reduce problems at a larger scale.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES)

There is a growing body of research on the profound impact that conditions like abuse, neglect, danger, and loss have on children. Especially those from underserved or at-risk families. Research shows a strong link between ACES and a wide range of physical and mental health problems across the life span.

Current and emerging research helps us understand the effects of ACEs and toxic stress on the body. This can increase risk for health problems, including chronic disease, mental illness, and obesity. ACES include poor education, abuse/neglect, unemployment and job insecurity, poverty, food insecurity, housing instability, adverse environmental conditions, and limited access to health care.



Percent of U.S. children experience at least one ACE (CDC)


Percent of U.S. children experience three or more ACES (CDC)


Percent of low income families experience at least one food insecurity – one in six US children (USDA)


40+ Diseases

Dose-response relationship confirmed between ACES and more than forty medical conditions (CDC)


Percent of abused/neglected children will develop a psychiatric disorder (CDC)


Increase in risk of overall psychiatric impairment in children from food insecure families*

*Murphy, et al 1998, Relationship between hunger and psychosocial functioning in low income American children

More Information About ACES:

CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study

One of the largest investigations of 10 types of childhood trauma that affect long-term health. The original study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection.

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Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire (ACE-Q)

A tool for families to self-administer the ACE screening tool to determine and interpret ACE scores.

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Safe Environment for Every Kid (SEEK)

The mission of SEEK is to strengthen families, support parents, and thereby promote children's health, development and safety - and help prevent child maltreatment.

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Subsequent ACE studies

A list of adapted and expanded ACE surveys to include other types of childhood adversity such as racism, witnessing violence outside of the home, bullying, and involvement with the foster care system.

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Resilience refers to the inner resources that can mitigate any harm caused by ACES. Resilience in children has been studied for decades. Yet research on how to measure and promote it has grown only in the past few years.

More information about Resilience:

American Academy of Pediatrics Resilience Questionnaire

Where Can I Learn More About Prevention Science?

A cradle-to-career partnership in the City of Albany dedicated to improving the educational outcomes for the children of Albany.

An American Academy of Pediatrics program dedicated to prevention and health promotion through dissemination of guidelines and resources to primary care providers, families, community organizations, and state partners.

A multidisciplinary team committed to driving science-based innovation in policy and practice to achieve breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.

A New York State Office of Children and Family Services program, this is an evidence-based voluntary home visiting model that seeks to improve the health and well-being of infants and children.

A nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care, and encouraging families to read aloud together.

A report that offers a model and recommendations for promoting the mental wellness of young people, through evidence-based strategies and a focus on wellness.

The official journal of prevention science for the Society for Prevention Research.

A non-profit organization dedicated to the study and prevention of violence through education, community service, research support and consultation.

A comprehensive mental health plan for New York City, including resources and Mental Health First Aid trainings.

A six-part series designed to provide primary care physicians with the tools to address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) with patients and their families.

A U.S. government website focused on effective youth programs that defines and considers a variety of promotion and prevention interventions for positive youth mental health outcomes.

Promotes the optimal development of young children, their families, and their communities in the New York metropolitan area.