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Harm minimisation IS effective says PHA

4 October 2005

Harm minimisation IS effective says PHA

Harm minimisation is recognised internationally as the most effective way of addressing drug-related harm, says the Public Health Association (PHA).

PHA Director Dr Gay Keating was commenting on calls from Wellington Coroner Garry Evans for a shift from the current ‘harm minimisation’ approach to drug policy and education. His comments follow his investigation into the deaths of six young people from substance abuse.

“Evidence tells us that the harm minimisation approach works, and New Zealand drug policy and drug education programmes must continue to be based on best-evidence,” says Dr Keating.

Mr Evan’s recommendations include using trained specialists to deliver drug education programmes in schools.

However, Dr Keating says that evidence suggests that school drug education programmes should be taught by teachers, so there is a question mark over the effectiveness of programmes delivered by outside agencies.

“At the moment we have the bizarre situation of organisations like the Life Education Trust going into schools and offering programmes that include smoking prevention, even through the Trust receives funding from British American Tobacco.

“We should be asking why it is that tobacco manufacturers are so keen to support youth smoking prevention programmes. Could it be because they know they certain types of programmes don’t work? You don’t see tobacco companies supporting initiatives like tax increases, which everyone agrees result in more people quitting smoking, and less young people starting.”

Dr Keating says that education programmes delivered in schools – whether they focus on illicit drugs, alcohol or tobacco – should be based on best practice, regularly evaluated, and their effectiveness demonstrated.


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