Getting To Outcomes®
Improving Community-Based Prevention

A Toolkit to Help Communities Implement and Evaluate Their Prevention Programs

Young people can engage in a variety of negative behaviors—such as drug use, underage drinking, and premarital sex—that exact a high toll on local communities. These activities are often the target of community-based prevention efforts. Getting To Outcomes (GTO), a collaboration between researchers at the RAND Corporation and the University of South Carolina, is a toolkit organized around a 10-step process to help communities plan, implement, and evaluate the impact of their programs that attempt to prevent these negative behaviors. GTO was developed with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

This website provides links to all GTO manuals and summaries (free downloads), publications, descriptions of related studies, and news.

Bridging the Gap Between Prevention Science and Prevention Practice

Estimates show that substance use prevention programs can improve the behavioral health of communities as well as save $4 to $5 for every dollar invested in drug abuse treatment and counseling. In today's economic climate, funders are increasingly demanding high-quality outcome data for the public or private resources they provide for prevention programs. At the same time, local prevention practitioners face several challenges in implementing high-quality programs, including the significant amount of knowledge and skills required, the large number of steps that need to be addressed, and the wide variety of contexts in which prevention programs need to be implemented. These challenges have resulted in a large gap between the positive outcomes often achieved by prevention science and the lack of these outcomes by prevention practice at the local level.

GTO was specifically designed to bridge this gap and help any agency, school, or community coalition interested in improving the quality of their programs aimed at preventing or reducing a range of negative activities among youth. Since publication in 2004, GTO has earned numerous awards and recognition.

How GTO Works

GTO is both a model for carrying out prevention programming with quality, and a support intervention aimed at enhancing practitioners' capacity.1 GTO does not advocate for any specific prevention program. Rather, communities should use the best program available that meets their needs, evidence-based or otherwise. GTO then provides supports to improve the quality of that program with the goal of achieving positive results.

The GTO model focuses on ten steps describing activities required to obtain positive results from any prevention program (see diagram). Each set of activities has been shown to make prevention programs successful.2 Steps 1-6 involve various planning activities (needs assessment, goal setting, choosing programs, ensuring appropriate capacity and fit, planning program details); steps 7-8 cover process and outcome evaluation; and steps 9-10 focus on the use of data to improve and sustain programs.

Getting to Outcomes: 10 Proven Steps To Better Programs (and outcomes funders expect)

"GTO didn't just improve our outcomes, it also gave us a way to talk about every component of our service." -- Council on Drugs and Alcohol, Santa Barbara, CA

  1. Focus: Choose which problem(s) to focus on.
  2. Target: Identify goals, target population, and desired outcomes.
  3. Adopt: Find existing programs and best practices worth adopting.
  4. Adapt: Modify the program or best practices to fit your needs.
  5. Resources: Assess capacity (staff, financing, etc.) to implement the program.
  6. Plan: Make a plan for getting started: who, what, when, where, and how.
  7. Monitor: Track planning and implementation. How did it go?
  8. Evaluate: Evaluate program's success in achieving desired results.
  9. Improve: Make a plan for continuous quality improvement.
  10. Sustain: Consider how to keep the program going if it is successful.

Toolkits address

  • drug and alcohol prevention
  • teen pregnancy prevention
  • underage drinking prevention
  • home visiting
  • positive youth development
  • homelessness

Outstanding Publication Award! -- American Evaluation Association, 2008

A few examples of GTO practitioners

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans
  • Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities
  • Over 60 Girls and Boys Clubs
  • And dozens of community organizations

100,000+: Number of downloaded GTO manuals on substance abuse prevention

The GTO toolkit has been proven to help community-based programs document measurable results. No other human services accountability framework can claim this.

  • Training: Build knowledge and skills
  • Technical Assistance: Personalized support for implementation
  • Toolkits: Provide guidance on key tasks

Getting to Outcomes(tm) is a results-oriented approach to running effective programs. It builds knowledge and skills among community practitioners, who can apply GTO to virtually any challenge, from drug prevention to homelessness, and clearly evaluate the results.

The GTO intervention helps practitioners to permanently incorporate newly learned capacities into routine operations, closing the gap between research and practice. This is achieved through three types of assistance: (1) the GTO manual and tools; (2) face-to-face training, and (3) onsite technical assistance (an important part of the GTO intervention, as explained by Matthew Chinman in a video on the SAMHSA website).

“...a fabulous cookbook for someone who's never done [outcomes evaluation] before.”

Pamela White
Director, Nashville Prevention Partnership

Adaptability to a Range of Prevention Efforts

The GTO model is designed to be a best practice process—prescriptive, yet flexible enough to facilitate any prevention program. Although GTO started in 2004 with drug prevention, since that time, the toolkit has been applied to a range of prevention areas, including:

  1. Teen Pregnancy

    CDC adapted RAND's step-by-step summary of the 2004 GTO manual to teen pregnancy prevention. In 2008, it published 10 Steps to Promoting Science-Based Approaches (PSBA) to Teen Pregnancy Prevention using Getting To Outcomes (GTO). Known as the “Little (PSBA) GTO,” this manual was used in the later stages of a five-year, multi-state teen pregnancy prevention program conducted by the CDC from 2005-2010. GTO served as the logic model that local communities were to use to structure their teen pregnancy prevention programming.

  2. Positive Youth Development

    In 2006, the Search Institute published Ten Steps to Measuring Success in Youth Programs and Communities, a manual targeting positive youth development that blends GTO with the Institute's Developmental Assets framework. The Search Institute uses this manual for training programs. RAND is currently leading a NIDA-funded study evaluating the combined Assets-Getting To Outcomes intervention in 12 sites in Maine.

  3. Underage Drinking

    In 2007, RAND published the Getting To Outcomes for Underage Drinking toolkit, sponsored by SAMHSA. Structured according to SAMHSA's Strategic Prevention Framework, this guide tailors the GTO model specifically for environmental strategies shown to be effective in tackling the problem of underage drinking. RAND is currently leading a CDC-funded study evaluating this version of the GTO intervention in six sites in South Carolina.

The trademarks “Getting To Outcomes” and “GTO” are jointly owned by the RAND Corporation and the University of South Carolina.

  • [1]Chinman et al. (2008). The Getting To Outcomes Demonstration and Evaluation: An Illustration of the Prevention Support System, American Journal of Community Psychology, v. 41, no. 3-4, June 2008, p. 206-224
  • [2] Livet, M., and Wandersman, A. (2005). Organizational Functioning: Facilitating Effective Interventions and Increasing the Odds of Programming Success. In D. M. Fetterman and A. Wandersman (Eds.), Empowerment Evaluation in Practice (pp. 123-154). New York, NY: Guilford