What Is Prevention?

Prevention (noun): 

An action or a set of actions designed to stop something before it actually happens.


A seat belt is an easy way to prevent injury in an accident. It takes one click.


Child abuse and neglect are harder problems to solve.  They take a whole set of strategies and actions to prevent.


The past 20 years have seen the emergence of a wide variety of successful strategies that have been shown to dramatically reduce child abuse and neglect . . . when these strategies are fully supported.


90by30 is committed to implementing and supporting proven strategies.


We take the public health approach to prevention. Strategies - also called "interventions" by researchers - usually fall into three categories:

  • Primary Prevention
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Tertiary Prevention


(First Tier)


  • refers to approaches that seek to eliminate the root causes of child neglect and abuse and ensure that neglect and abuse never occur in the first place.
  • uses universal interventions that apply to all people within a society, not just one group deemed vulnerable or "at risk."
  • can be likened to eradicating polio by vaccinating the masses.


Child abuse is a more complex problem, involving intersecting behavioral, psychological, and cultural factors, and it requires a more complex solution. However, the idea is the same: focus the attention and efforts on the causes, not the effects. This is the idea of "moving upstream." Instead of rescuing people who fall into a river, we seek to build boats or bridges to keep them out of the river in the first place. Prevent Child Abuse Arizona has a great video illustrating the concept.





(Second Tier)


  • refers to strategies designed to decrease risks for specific groups identified as more likely to become victims or more likely to neglect or abuse children. This is called "selective intervention" because it targets those most in danger of experiencing or committing abuse or neglect.
  • is a way to focus limited resources to do the most good by concentrating resources on the families or individuals who research tells us will benefit the most.
  • is a common prevention tactic. Most agencies working to address child neglect and abuse focus on children and families identified as at-risk because of factors like poverty, parental addiction, limited access to early education, etc.


Secondary prevention will not, on its own, prevent neglect or abuse of all children. For example, child welfare and child protective services intervene at once when a report of neglect or abuse is made, with the goal of ensuring that a child who has been harmed is not harmed again. This secondary prevention effort protects a particular child from further neglect or abuse, but will not universally prevent abuse before it starts.



(Third Tier)


  • refers to efforts to reduce further harm to children and families who have already experienced neglect or abuse and to stop those who have caused harm to children from doing so again.
  • uses indicated interventions that focus energy not on all children or at-risk children but on already affected children and families.
  • is designed to help address the harm done by neglect and abuse in order to support the healing and health of children as they confront the lifelong impact of their experiences.
  • includes things like peer support groups, mental health interventions, legal prosecutions, medical advocacy efforts, and family support programs.