How to promote effective evidence-based prevention when no one is listening?

Good intentions but ineffective or even harmful prevention measures? In this blog post, Sanela Talič from the Institute for Research and Development UTRIP, Slovenia, shares her critical insights to current and past developments in the field of prevention research. She makes a strong point to implement existing prevention programs that have proven effective and calls for an increased collaboration between the different stakeholders and experts in the field.

The topic of my second blog was encouraged by recent events and conferences in Europe and some insider information from our allies – Slovenian NGO’s active in the field of prevention. Overall, 10 years of intensive prevention work have resulted in only few sympathizers who actually understand the basic principles of prevention. Often, we receive very valuable information about prevention in schools from them. So, let me start from the beginning…

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A European perspective: Traineeship at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction

In today’s blog post, Stefanie Helmer, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics at the Charité University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, shares with us what it’s like to complete a traineeship at the European Union’s central agency on drug-related issues: the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in Lisbon, Portugal.

When you work in an interdisciplinary team and you are the one responsible for drug prevention, this goes along with a lot of comments. You are tired on a Monday morning? You can be sure that everybody will ask you about your “field research” at the weekend. If there is a dinner with colleagues, you are the one that is responsible for selecting the wine because you certainly know all about it. So, I thought: let’s go the whole hog – apply for a traineeship in Lisbon at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the people working there are never going to ask you that kind of questions1.

Even though this was not the real reason behind my application, I was convinced to apply for a traineeship in November 2015 and luckily got it. And now I would like to convince you to do so, too.

The EMCDDA building in Lisbon (Picture: © Stefanie Helmer)

Being a trainee at the EMCDDA

I applied for a position in the prevention unit. Continue reading

  1. As most of you may know, the EMCDDA is an agency of the European Commission that was set up to provide information about drug use and the responses to it in the European Union’s member states, Norway and Turkey. If you are interested in their work, you can find more details here: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/. []

Substance use in Brazilian migrants in the UK: the role of acculturation

This month’s contribution comes from Martha Canfield, who is a researcher at the National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College in London, UK. In this blog, she describes her research about substance use of Brazilian migrants in the UK, and how acculturation is associated with this behavior.

I am taking the opportunity to describe here some of the findings from my PhD research which explored the extent to which the process of acculturation is placing Brazilian migrants in the UK at risk for substance use1. Although this study looked at a population of Brazilians aged 18 and over residing in the UK, it presents findings that have the potential to be translated to other migratory groups, younger populations of migrants and minority ethnic groups, and to different contexts (e.g. countries).

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  1. Canfield, M. (2016). Predictors of substance use in Brazilian migrants in the UK: The role of acculturation. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Roehampton. []

Reflections on sober raving: alcohol free fun for further research?

Dr Emma Davies is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health at Oxford Brookes University.  In this article, she provides some reflections on alcohol free events, such as sober raves, as a topic for research in drug and alcohol misuse.

Background

Strategies for reducing drug and alcohol misuse tend to focus on encouraging people to either stop or cut down in order to reduce harms.  But substance use is often driven by the pursuit of pleasure, rather than by the avoidance of harm (Global Drug Survey, 2015; Hutton, 2012), and drugs and alcohol are present in many social situations.  People are very often already aware of the risks associated with their behaviour, but on balance they decide it is worth the risk to have a good time.  Furthermore, and especially in social situations where alcohol is flowing, people’s good intentions often fail to map onto their behaviours (Sheeran, 2002).

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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

Why you should care about reflexivity in prevention research

In today’s post, Angelina Brotherhood, doctoral researcher at the University of Vienna, invites us to reflect on ‘why’ we conduct our research and how our own values and beliefs influence our research. She argues that being clear on research purpose and underlying values is especially important in fields such as prevention research.

As a full-time doctoral student, one of my favourite things is having the opportunity to think, read, listen, and talk about things that are not strictly project-related. Though I might receive my degree sooner if I focussed solely on ‘getting the job done’, I take the view that the doctorate is not just about completing a research project. Ultimately the doctorate (and the early career phase generally) should be about determining what kind of professional you want to be, right?

Sometimes it is worth going a bit slower but having time to breathe and look around (picture © Mike Brotherhood, used with permission)

Sometimes it is worth going a bit slower but having time to breathe and look around
(picture © Mike Brotherhood, used with permission)

In this post, I summarise where my thinking has led me thus far. I highlight some questions that I found useful and illustrate how answering them has helped me in my research. Continue reading

Looking beyond randomization to estimate the effects of interventions in RCTs

This month’s contribution comes from Sinziana Oncioiu, who is a public health researcher affiliated with Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. In this article, she will provide an in-depth delineation of her research which she presented at the EUSPR conference in Ljubljana in 2015. Her research targets complementary analyses to intention-to-treat analysis in an effectiveness study that was conducted at Karolinska Institutet.    

At the 6th annual conference of the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR), I had the chance to present the results of my Master’s thesis. Its focus was on alternative methods to intention-to-treat (ITT) for a better understanding of the effects of interventions evaluated using randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The data I worked with came from the FRITT study which stands for “Free from tobacco in dentistry”. It is an RCT designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a brief counselling on tobacco cessation in dental clinics in Sweden1. The ITT analysis showed that the brief advice was effective in reducing the amount of tobacco used at baseline, but not in achieving abstinence1. In this post, I will walk you through the main lessons learnt during this study. Continue reading

  1. Virtanen, S. E., Zeebari, Z., Rohyo, I., & Galanti, M. R. (2015). Evaluation of a brief counseling for tobacco cessation in dental clinics among Swedish smokers and snus users. A cluster randomized controlled trial (the FRITT study). Preventive Medicine, 70, 26–32. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.11.005 []

Alcohol and Tobacco in French teenagers’ favorite TV shows

Boris Chapoton is a researcher in cancer prevention. In this article, he provides an overview of his work on media influence and substance use in young people, which led to him being awarded the EUSPR/ SPAN Early Career Researcher Prize at the recent EUSPR conference.

A few months ago, I had the honour to get the first EUSPR/SPAN Early Career Researcher Prize at the 2015 EUSPR conference in Ljubljana for the talk “Messages about drinking and smoking in the content of the TV series most popular with French youth1”.

I will give a brief description of the presentation to you below. Continue reading

  1. Chapoton, B., Russell, C.A., Salles, B., Simond, Y. & Regnier-Denois, V. (2015, October). Messages about drinking and smoking in the content of the TV series most popular with French youth. Talk presented at the 6th International Conference and Members’ meeting – European Society for Prevention Research, Ljubljana, Slovenia. http://easychair.org/smart-program/EUSPR2015/2015-10-23.html#talk:12354 []

Reflections on integrating multiple professional roles: where do I go from here?

Dijana Jerković is a practitioner, a policy-maker and a researcher in drug prevention. In this article, she introduces herself and her work, using this opportunity to reflect on the specific challenge of closing the gap between research, policy and practice at an intrapersonal level.

“Lifelong learning” and “investing time and energy in personal beliefs” are leitmotifs that have guided me through life since my childhood. As a result, today I have different professional roles, and therefore I’ve decided to write a few words about challenges that arise from this multiplicity. In line with that, in the following text I write about my experience and present it as a simplified version of a case study. Continue reading

What is the impact of candy-like flavoured e-cigarette adverts on children?

Our first contribution comes from Dr Milica Vasiljevic, Research Associate at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge, UK. Milica describes her recently published experimental study on e-cigarette advertising which was also awarded the 3rd SPAN Poster Prize at the EUSPR conference in Ljubljana in 2015. She then discusses her own research findings in relation to the new EU Tobacco Products Directive which will come into force in May 2016.

E-cigarettes: potential for benefit or harm?

The availability and use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has risen rapidly in the last three years with an estimated 2.6 million people using e-cigarettes in the UK in 2015 and 11.8 million in the USA in 20141,2. E-cigarette use is also rising amongst children and adolescents, raising concerns that their use could lead to tobacco smoking3,4. Continue reading

  1. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Use of electronic cigarettes (vapourisers) among adults in Great Britain. May, 2015. http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_891.pdf []
  2. Schoenborn CA, Gindi RM. Electronic cigarette use among adults: United States, 2014. NCHS data brief, no. 217. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015. []
  3. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Use of electronic cigarettes among children in Great Britain. June, 2015. http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_959.pdf []
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco use among middle and high school students—United States, 2011–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2015;64:381–5. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6414a3.htm?s_cid=mm6414a3_e []