I tend to take a fairly measured approach to projects I’m presented with. If I go into a task unorganized, scatterbrained, and making it up as I go, I may as well not even bother. But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy a bit of improvisation once in a while, though.
This is especially true of there’s a required procedure already in place but I think I know a better way to do it. Makes me wanna tear my hair.
That required procedure is what’s commonly referred to as “best practice.” It’s the way of doing something that’s been tested and accepted as the most effective approach and the one most likely to produce positive outcomes.
Best practices can really throw people for a loop sometimes, especially when the desired positive outcome of a given best practice is that nothing or not much will happen. That’s the goal with best practices currently in place due to COVID-19.
“Not as many people got sick as originally projected.” “There weren’t as many deaths as anticipated.” “Wearing face masks reduced spread of the pandemic.”
If you’re not used to following best practices, especially when it comes to prevention, it can really seem like the people or groups instituting them are full of shit. I get that. Been there and done it.
About a dozen years ago, I was hired to help implement a Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) grant in northwest Vermont. The goal of the grant was to prevent youth from engaging in risky behaviors, particularly with regard to substance abuse. I was passionate about the work, and my heart was in the right place. It took my brain a few weeks to adapt, though.
Each word that comprises the SPF initialism is crucial, but the S and the F are the bookends for a reason. Without them, there’s no P. Prevention is only possible with a strategic approach that’s scaffolded with a solid framework.
That’s where best practices come in.
There wasn’t the time, money, or need to create programs from whole cloth, as we could implement those in use elsewhere in the country. But those programs all came with best practices for implementation. It was tough to accept that policies and procedures created “somewhere else” would work in our tiny, rural communities, and I struggled with rolling them out without making changes.
But we did. And they worked.
We did our work, collected data, and the numbers – as well as anecdotal evidence – showed us that it was working. Noticeably fewer youths were engaging in the risky behaviors we hoped they’d avoid.
The same is happening with best practices around COVID-19. When social distancing is used, as people wear face masks, as non-essential parts of the economy remain closed, the curve flattens. Of course, the other side of the argument is that the pandemic was never that bad in the first place. That sort of skepticism is understandable, but there should be no hesitation in pushing back against it.
Adoption of best practices always breeds skepticism in the short-term as these approaches play out with long-term goals in mind.
We encounter best practices every day without blinking an eye. They’ve been around for ages, and they’re still in place because they work.
Brief mental heath screenings at doctors appointments, changing the oil in your car after 5,000 miles, and brushing your teeth twice a day are all considered best practices. So is washing your hands after using the bathroom, not smoking while pregnant (or in general), and following the speed limit.
A few months from now, the best practices we’re learning and implementing for this pandemic will be part of daily life in the same way brushing our teeth twice daily and following the speed limit are.
You can put whatever judgement you want on that, but it’s the clear way through this.