The non-existent bridge between research and practice

In today’s contribution, Miriam Blikmans, research master student at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, shares some thoughts on how she has experienced the gap between the worlds of research and practice during her first year in the academic world.

How it all began

My first serious encounter with research took place while I was conducting my bachelor thesis abroad. During a period of three months, the University of Örebro in Sweden gave me the opportunity to take a look into the world of research. I learned a lot: how to come to an innovative research topic, how to conduct more advanced statistical techniques, but most of all it taught me the power of research. During my study on the effectiveness of parenting programs for children with externalizing behaviour, I found that the reduction in children’s problem behaviour was partly due to a decrease in parenting stress. Although being overall effective, not all families benefit from these programs. I thought this insight into parenting stress as a working mechanism might help increase the effectiveness of these parenting programmes and therefore it could make a difference in the lives of certain families. Of course, I was a little naive Continue reading

Challenges with implementing effective school-based prevention – the Estonian experience

In today’s contribution, Karin Streimann, senior specialist of child and adolescent health at the Estonian National Institute for Health Development, describes one of the activities that her Institute undertakes to improve the quality of school-based substance use prevention in Estonia. She also reflects on some of the lessons that she has learnt along the way.

According to Brotherhood & Sumnall (2011), many people wrongly believe that drug prevention means informing young people about the effects of drug use. In reality, the focus of drug prevention should be on strengthening protective factors and reducing risk factors associated with higher likelihood of substance use (National Institute on Drug Abuse 2010). As social contexts influence substance use (Galea, Nandi & Vlahov 2004), measures to influence the school as a social setting are an important part of substance use prevention. That could include a combination of activities such as increasing the school engagement and connectedness, partnership between school and parents and policies to reduce substance use.

However, it is still a common practice in Estonian schools to conduct lectures about the dangers of substances or to invite ex drug-addicts to schools to talk with children. Teacher’s relative lack of knowledge about what is effective in prevention and their personal experiences can offer some explanation to the current situation. Continue reading