New White Paper: The Danger of Misusing Prevention Data

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Behavioral health screenings, such as for adverse childhood experiences, are important data for identifying individuals and communities at risk of long-term ill health effects. However, without a framework that centers the desires and needs of the people who are screened and a trauma-informed lens, we risk pathologizing people and subjecting them to surveillance that can be harmful and intrusive. By carefully using prevention data to empower people to make decisions for themselves and their communities, we can enhance our care and public health through mutuality and collaboration.

In a new white paper, “The Danger of Misusing Prevention Data,” we define the goals of prevention, examine how risk factor data may be misused, and look toward a prevention framework that zeroes in on the real systemic harms that true prevention efforts must address.

Prevention should be an act that the individual or community perform for themselves, not the beneficent saviorism of clinicians and public health professionals descending from on high. We do not save lives; we care for people. Thus, by understanding this framework, we should not be screening individuals for risk factors to shield them from harm, but rather to notice which social risks they are exposed to and what types of care and support they might benefit from.

Without this clarity of the purpose of prevention — i.e., to allow people to make decisions that best serve themselves and their self-interest long-term — preventative measures will fall the way of all forms of healthcare that fail to address systemic discrimination, inequity, and injustice: Doing as much as, if not more, harm than good.

Read this white paper at You also can view and download all our white papers at

The Institute of Family & Community Impact is a initiative of OhioGuidestone, one of Ohio’s largest behavioral health agencies. From research to products to clinical innovations, we provide tools for mental health treatment. For questions or more info, email us at

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