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Special Project

Special Project
From the 11th Annual Shorty Awards

Operation Prevention

Audience Honor in Education


Every day, 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose, and overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999 (CDC). To address this epidemic, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Discovery Education partnered to launch "Operation Prevention," an initiative purposed to educate K-12 students about the impacts of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use. The program aims to teach students about the science of addiction, kick-starting lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. Available at no cost, resources include:

-Educator Lesson Plans – Standards-aligned lessons bring real-world context to science and health classrooms by exploring the science behind opioids' physical and neurological effects.

-Student Resources – Encourage students to investigate impacts of opioids on the brain and body.

-Parent Toolkit – Empowers parents with resources to begin lifesaving conversations at home, detect warning signs and take action.

-Virtual Field Trips – Convey the real-world impact of opioid abuse, with unfiltered facts about drug addiction

-Student Video Challenge – Invites teens to create a unique PSA, aimed to reach their peers, about dangers of opioid misuse. Participating students have the chance to win $10,000.

Because 86% of individuals ages 18-29 use social media, promotion via social media was critical to reach the young adults who are disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis (Pew Research Center). Discovery's multi-platform campaign aimed to provide educators, students, and their families with lifesaving resources, and our successful social media campaign has been paramount to that effort.

Strategy and Execution

In October 2016, to combat America's rapidly growing opioid and heroin epidemic, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms, announced a joint nationwide education initiative called "Operation Prevention," a free science-based education tool for students, teachers, and parents. " Operation Prevention" illuminates the opioid epidemic by teaching students the science behind drug addiction through educator lesson plans, interactive student resources and empower parents with knowledge and resources to begin life-saving conversations.

Designed to empower teachers and parents, standards-aligned digital lesson plans and resources were created to support these adults who can proactively take action through research-based strategies. Companion instructor guides are available to support educators as they integrate these lessons into classroom instruction while the Parent Toolkit includes family discussion starters, a detailed guide of warning signs and what they mean, and prevention and intervention tools.

To bring this to life for students, Operation Prevention hosts a Virtual Field Trip each year to connect students with real people who have been affected by the opioid epidemic in order to inspire a deeper understanding of the dangers of experimentation and the benefits of drug-free living. During each Virtual Field Trip, the impact is significant, as students are able to see the real faces of addiction and hear personal stories behind initial experimentation and movement from trial, to usage, to addiction.

To drive the point home further, Discovery also launched a student video challenge in 2017. The challenge enlisted students to review their peers' video entries and help us select the best teen-created PSA. The winner of this challenge received $10,000 and the chance to make their PSA vision a reality.


Since launch, the program has reached 3.4MM students nationwide. has received 358,000 page views.

-Social media campaign garnered approximately 129MM potential Twitter impressions.

-Press coverage generated 220MM impressions. Highlights include: The Washington Post, CBS News, WUSA9, US Department of Justice, and Education World.

-The program expanded by translating resources into Spanish, expanding content for more grade levels, adding social studies standards aligned lesson plans and enhancing marketing efforts.

-"Every overdose is preventable," said Tim Phillips, Director of the Westmoreland County Drug Overdose Task Force. "Operation Prevention is great for this community. We have a treatable disease here, and we need to work together to change the stigma."

-Operation Prevention won Best Awareness Campaign/Initiative at the 2017 Cynopsis Social Good Awards.

-Discovery Education and the DEA have also created a mirrored Spanish based on interest from educators, and will be updating all curriculum assets in 2019 to provide the most science-based, standards-aligned resources possible.

The reach of Discovery's social channels and the critical importance of this campaign are largely responsible for the success of the Operation Prevention initiative, which continues to shine a light on a national epidemic and to provide life-saving resources for classrooms across the country.

Although these numbers demonstrate a growing awareness and interest in learning about opioids, Operation Prevention is still working to develop outreach strategies for all platforms, both digital and physical.


Video for Operation Prevention

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Discovery Education, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)


Entry Credits