Evidence, which interpretation is better..

Harry Egg by paulhurleyuk
Harry Egg, a photo by paulhurleyuk on Flickr.

The World Health Organisation have just published two report which have different very different interpretations of the state of prevention research.

Writing for the WHO about alcohol in the EU, Peter Anderson, Lars Møller and Gauden Galea have this to say about school-based programmes:

Many systematic reviews have evaluated school-based education and concluded that classroom-based education is not effective in reducing alcohol-related harm (Foxcroft et al., 2003; Jones et al., 2007).

They underplay the positive findings of a later Foxcroft meta review by pointing to the number of reviews that showed no effect, and that it was impossible to tell what the active ingredients were in the trials that did show effect.

So how to square that with the Health Behaviour in School Age Children report from the same organisation that found:

School-based intervention programmes focusing specifically on alcohol use and targeting adolescents and their parents have considerable effects. Generic, psychosocial and developmental, school-based prevention programmes focusing on life skills and a healthy lifestyle in general are also effective and could be considered as policy and practice options.

Last month writing in the Lancet Richard Catalano, director of the University of Washington’s Social Development Research Group said:

Prevention science and the effectiveness of prevention is one of the best-kept secrets in the world.

While the interpretation of the evidence is so wildly different as these WHO’s documents set out it is easy to see why it remains difficult to secure large scale investment in prevention programmes.

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