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Think Prevention First

A Handbook for Board Members

Prevention Counts has long been a by-word of The Arc. To that end, The Arc of New Jersey has just published Think Prevention First, a handbook for Board members of chapters of The Arc.

Developed by the Prevention Committee of The Arc of New Jersey, it seeks to increase awareness that some causes of developmental disabilities can be prevented. The Arc has always supported primary prevention programs as we attempt to reduce the risk – and hence the incidence – of various kinds of cognitive and physical disabilities originating early in life. 

At a packed workshop The Arc of New Jersey presented at the recent National Convention in Birmingham, it was evident that there is much interest across the country in learning more about prevention efforts at the local and state chapter level. Moreover, participants were eager to discuss the meaning of prevention in The Arc’s history and mission, as well as in identifying funding sources and finding ways to increase the visibility of local and state chapters through prevention projects. Lastly, participants wanted to explore ways to partner with other community-based organizations and government agencies to create prevention programs in local and state chapters.

The Handbook is useful in addressing many of these issues: it documents the history of prevention activities; the background of current science and research; public policy; ethical issues; and, local chapter initiatives. Like the Prevention Handbooks published by the National Arc in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, this, too, suggests that “we have entered a new phase in the field of prevention…. With the whole-hearted commitment of state and local chapters, we can help develop prevention programs which will drastically reduce the incidence of mental retardation.”

One strategy to increase prevention visibility is to create a Prevention Committee at the state or local chapter. Including a mix of chapter representatives and state agency and community-based organization participants ensures attention will be paid to a broad range of prevention issues. Focusing on a particular task – such as a Pregnant Pause event to reduce Fetal Alcohol Syndrome -- is a positive way to build consensus and commitment. 

Another method to build support for prevention is to create a county- or state-wide coalition. Again, by reaching out to some of the natural partners of The Arc – such as the March of Dimes, Brain Injury Association, maternal and child health consortia, Healthy Mothers/Healthy Babies, alcohol/ drug councils, and groups concerned with prevention of teen pregnancy, smoking, lead poisoning, and childhood injury – a network of caring and motivated collaborators can be created to focus on prevention issues.

Copies of Think Prevention First are available, for $12.00, which includes shipping and handling, through The Arc of New Jersey’s Coalition for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities at 732-246-2525 or


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