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Choosing which problem to solve

A small, rural substance use prevention group is trying to decide where to focus their youth related efforts. In the following chart, the group compared two problems to see which one is more important to the group.


Problem 1: Many underage teens smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco

Problem 2: Many teenagers use illegal drugs (marijuana, cocaine, et cetera)

How frequently does the problem occur?

Very Frequently Frequently

How many people are affected?

Most area high school students have smoked at least once; a significant percentage smoke regularly

In our rural community, few illicit drugs are available; this is a fairly small number

For what amount of time are they affected?

Regular smokers, often for life

Often life-long consequences

How severe is the effect?

Relatively severe

Can be tremendously severe

How important do group members perceive the problem to be?

Very Important Less Important

How important is the problem perceived to be by others?

Less important; smoking and chewing are widely accepted here

Very Important

How likely is it that we can solve/significantly improve the problem?

Very Likely Possible, but difficult

Are there any negative impacts?

None None

Which problem will the coalition choose? That remains to be seen; this chart won't give a magic answer. But by using this or a similar device, it's easy to see all of the different aspects of the problem, and the group is now better equipped to make an informed choice.

Jenette Nagy