As part of the Public Policy Institute’s focus on preventing and ending poverty, we employ a number of strategies related to public health prevention efforts. Prevention services focus on stopping a negative situation from ever taking place, and therefore such approaches are often highly cost-effective at the policy level and successful among individuals and families.

We provide prevention services in a variety of ways:

  • Directly intervening with vulnerable individuals who are more likely to engage in a negative behavior
  • Targeting entire communities that show a higher level of unhealthy activities or environments, for example, through public awareness campaigns using posters, social media, billboards, and public service announcements
  • Participating in coalitions made up of allied organizations to broaden community engagement
  • Distributing grant awards and providing training and support to local organizations

The Public Policy Institute’s first role in prevention services was in administering the Milwaukee implementation of the state of Wisconsin’s Brighter Futures Initiative. We have since expanded to include youth substance use prevention, violence prevention, and healthy relationships. We endeavor to increase protective factors that support young people’s good choices and reduce risk factors that can lead them to taking up harmful behaviors.

“We primarily focus on working with adolescents and young adults because we can prevent a lot of things that adults say that they wish they could go back and not do,” explained Prevention Services Manager Elysse Chay. “We are looking for changes in knowledge, skills, attitudes, or behavior of young people to improve their chances of living healthy, prosperous lives.”

Chay said the prevention measures address disparities in our community that enable some young people to grow up in a healthy environment while other youth must overcome barriers to achieving health and wholeness.

“Because of the way our society is built, there are some young people who get a lot of protective factors, such as a safe neighborhood, clean air, or a lack of addiction in their family tree,” Chay said. “It’s not something they earned, it was something they were born into or part of their family or neighborhood. I see the work that we do in prevention as leveling that playing field by helping to provide and boost the protective factors among the young people who started out in life through no fault of their own.”

How we support grantees

Local organizations can do more to prevent and reduce the harm of poverty with evidence-based programming and the right support. The Public Policy Institute receives funding to coordinate processes of strategically distributing grant awards to local programs related to the funding source’s goal. The process usually involves writing and disseminating a Request for Proposals, recruiting an independent review panel to score the applicants’ proposals, and coordinating the award and evaluation processes. 

When we grant funds to community-based agencies to impact specific needs, the award is accompanied by training and technical assistance to boost the agencies’ effectiveness and organizational capacity. In addition, comprehensive program evaluation includes a shared database for monitoring, as well as regular site visits. Our programs that employ re-granting include the MKE Brighter Futures Initiative and the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition's Stay Strong MKE Initiative.

Public Policy Institute staff also provide training opportunities for our grantees and allies to learn best practices in prevention methods.


The Public Policy Institute's prevention services include the following:

MCSAP funds and supports 8 community-based programs who propose projects aligning with coalition efforts to prevent the harmful consequences of substance use and abuse.

The City of Milwaukee Tobacco-Free Alliance is a multi-jurisdictional coalition using education and community mobilization to eliminate health disparities and support tobacco prevention.

Our SE region AWY enhances the capacity of member coalitions to prevent youth substance abuse, collaborate, and implement evidence-based strategies.

The Milwaukee Brighter Futures Initiative funds and supports 11 community-based programs to prevent and reduce child abuse and neglect, youth violence, youth alcohol and other drug use and abuse, and teen pregnancy.