The Institute of Medicine (IOM) model, often referred to as a continuum of services, care, or
prevention, classifies prevention interventions according to their target population. Classification
by population provides clarity to differing objectives of various interventions and matches the
objectives to the needs of the target population. The IOM identifies the following categories
based on level of risk: Universal – Indirect, Universal – Direct, Selective, and Indicated.
Mental health promotion interventions
Usually targeted to the general public or a whole population. Interventions aim to enhance individuals’ ability to achieve developmentally appropriate tasks (competence) and a positive sense of self-esteem, mastery, well-being, and social inclusion, and strengthen their ability to cope with adversity.
Targeted to the general public or a whole population that has not been identified on the basis of individual risk. The intervention is desirable for everyone in that group. Universal interventions have advantages when their costs per individual are low, the intervention is effective and acceptable to the population, and there is a low risk from the intervention.
Targeted to individuals or a population subgroup whose risk of developing mental disorders is significantly higher than average. The risk may be imminent or it may be a lifetime risk. Risk groups may be identified on the basis of biological, psychological, or social risk factors that are known to be associated with the onset of a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. Selective interventions are most appropriate if their cost is moderate and if the risk of negative effects is minimal or nonexistent.
Targeted to high-risk individuals who are identified as having minimal but detectable signs or symptoms foreshadowing mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, or biological markers indicating predisposition for such a disorder, but who do not meet diagnostic levels at the current time. Indicated interventions might be reasonable even if intervention costs are high and even if the intervention entails some risk.