This Reitox Academy was organised by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the UPC-Adapt Group1 in collaboration with the First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague, and the Czech National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction, within the framework of the final conference of the Universal Prevention Curriculum (UPC)-Adapt project, funded with the support of the European Commission. It took place on 28–29 November 2018 at the Lichtenstein Palace in Prague.
The UPC-Adapt generated a set of curricula for application in training of prevention professionals in Europe. Nine European Union (EU) member states (Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Spain) piloted these materials in 2018. Given the significance of the work and interest in the topic among the experts in the EU member states and beyond, the EMCDDA together with the UPC-Adapt project will extend the beneficiaries of the project through train-the-trainer events and other activities planned in 2019. The Reitox Academy was organised to present the results of the work done and to discuss the possible dissemination of the programmes across Europe.
The objectives of the academy were to: (1) increase understanding of the European UPC’s (EUPC) potential and the motivation of the Reitox partners to launch the EUPC in their respective countries; (2) provide a short introduction and an overview of the EUPC and to motivate participation in future train-the-trainer events; and, (3) explore liaison with universities that implement the full UPC within their academic syllabi. The conference was also an excellent opportunity to network with prevention practitioners and learn from approaches and initiatives across Europe.
The conference was attended by nominees from 21 EU member states and potential candidate countries to the EU. Day 1 of the conference opened with plenary presentations from Gregor Burkhart (EMCDDA) on what works in drug prevention and from Peer van der Kreeft (University College Ghent) on the history of the UPC-Adapt project and core issues in the adaptation process.
Three parallel workshops on the ‘Content and method of EUPC training’ were held in the afternoon. The group was split into three, covering the following topics:
1 EUPC for school-based and community-based prevention
2 EUPC for environmental and media-based prevention
3 EUPC for workplace and family-based prevention.
The earlier part of day 2 looked more closely at the training component of EUPC and which conclusions did the pilot deliver. This portion of the day contained presentations on the training of decision, opinion and policy makers (Rachele Donini, ASL 2 Savonese); the online version of training (Roman Gabrhelík, Charles University); and the academic version (Martina Ferić, University of Zagreb). The second part of the day focused on next steps and the dissemination of EUPC across Europe.
The curricula developed by UPC-Adapt are an interesting proposal in the Irish context. A recent article2 examined the prominence of drug education work within the statutory response to drug use in Ireland. The author argues that drug education is underfunded, and without national representation since the disbanding of the Drug Education Workers Forum (DEWF). The precarious position might be explained by question marks over the perceived value of drug education. A HRB Drug and Alcohol Evidence Review3 highlighted a lack of good-quality evaluation in the field: ‘When considering the current state of the evidence and the accompanying evidence gaps, it is worth noting that the absence of evidence should not be taken as evidence of absence’ (p. 36). Coupled with a lack of rigorous research, expectations of drug education are often unrealistic and contradictory. These factors have combined to create the conditions for bad practice in drug education to not only survive but to thrive. EUPC offers the potential to improve practice with regard to drug prevention and to convince decision, opinion and policy makers of the value of evidenced practice, and a firmer footing for those working as drug education and prevention practitioners.
2 Darcy C (2018) The precarious position of drug education workers in Ireland. Economic and Social Review, 49(3): 361–372. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/29721/
3. Munton T, Wedlock E and Gomersall A (2014) The efficacy and effectiveness of drug and alcohol abuse prevention programmes delivered outside of
school settings. HRB Drug and Alcohol Evidence Review 2. Dublin: Health Research Board. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/23079/