Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)

Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Tom Massey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julie Baldwin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kathleen Moore, Ph.D.


Drugs, EBP, Implementation, Prevention


There has been a recent expansion of community-based coalitions to address issues related to youth substance use. Research on their overall effectiveness, however, has produced mixed results. Recommendations to improve coalition success have emphasized the high-quality implementation of evidence-based programs targeting specific community needs. Coalitions vary extensively, however, in their organization and functioning. In addition, the lack of a universally accepted theoretical framework to understand coalition functioning has led to inconsistencies in the coalition research and the specific constructs used to describe coalition functioning.

Purpose of the Study: To address these gaps, the current study used a case study approach to describe the organization and functioning of four local substance abuse coalitions and to identify factors related to coalition high-quality implementation of evidence-based programs.

Methods: Using constructs based on Community Coalition Action Theory, the current study used coalition member surveys and key leadership interviews to produce separate case study descriptions of four participating community substance abuse coalitions. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted to examine the structure of the survey measure. Univariate statistics were used to describe coalition functioning and attitudes toward evidence-based practice and implementation. One-way analysis of variance tests were employed to examine differences across the coalitions and Pearson's product-moment correlations were used to identify coalition characteristics associated with attitudes toward evidence-based practice. A thematic analysis of interview data was conducted for an in-depth examination of coalition functioning and perceptions of evidence-based practice.

Results: Coalition members and leaders reported high levels of functioning across all of the included domains. However, several differences in coalition background and structure were discussed. Community support was described as a major functioning challenge across both surveys and interviews. Interview results also revealed several different coalition belief patterns surrounding evidence-based practice and quality implementation. Coalition members and leaders generally indicated positive attitudes toward the use of evidence-based prevention programs and strategies. However, varying levels of knowledge and experience with evidence-based practices was identified across interviews. Interviews also highlighted several factors that influence coalition decision-making and identified several perceived challenges associated with the use of evidence-based practices. Results include a discussion of coalition knowledge, perceptions, and experiences with program implementation.

Conclusions and Implications: Taken together, these findings form a basis for better understanding the current environment surrounding community substance abuse coalition functioning and implementation of evidence-based practices. Several factors were shown to influence coalition decision-making processes and overall functioning. In addition, the present study highlights strengths and gaps related to coalition leadership knowledge, attitudes, and implementation of evidence-based programs and strategies. These identified relationships can be used to guide future research and community practice. With their growing popularity, it is likely that community coalitions will take on a major role in future community-based prevention efforts across the country. As such, there is a need to design substance abuse prevention programming with coalitions in mind and to identify alternative avenues to disseminate information surrounding community-focused evidence-based practices. Identifying new ways to measure and build coalition processes, leadership skills, and structures could result in greater coalition capacity to plan for and support prevention activities, including use of evidence-based practices.