Paul and I spent two days in Krakow last week at the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR). As with the two previous conferences that the society has held the agenda was packed and there’s a lot to digest.
The theme of this year’s meeting was the common risk and protective factors for multiple risk behaviours and saw speakers from both Europe and North America try to make sense of some quite complex data.
For example, Judith Prochaska from Stanford University took us through a lot of US attempts to work out how to affect a number of interrelated risks – cancer, substance misuse, obesity, and diet – and seemed to conclude that not only do you need to think about the risks you’re trying to effect, but the combination of interventions you use, and the order in which you run them. So for example if you’re trying to work on smoking with those trying to treat their drug use, then waiting for a couple of weeks before doing smoking cessation seems critical to better outcomes.
Dr Dan Hale from UCL presented an analysis that he has been involved in looking the common factors that are associated with a range of risk behaviours. He said that substance use, sexual health and violence are partially explicable due to common risk but associations decrease with age – these include bullying and poor school attachment. The exception being alcohol misuse where they found that the predictors for heavy drinking at age 19 are getting on well at school and having good grades – which he thought could be to do with the norms around university’s drinking cultures.
Another of the keynote speakers was Fabrizio Faggiano, who argued that we need to think about putting in place a regulatory system for prevention interventions, similar to the ones that regulate medicines. He suggested that too often when prevention interventions are proven to be ineffective we think it is okay to tinker with the content, but in his view if an intervention is showing an iatrogenic effect (making things worse), we should decommission it.
As well as being able to draw on the expertise of the keynote speakers we were able to present the work we did with Street Talk both as a poster (right) and during one of the parallel sessions.
Both were very well received.
Of particular interest was the use we made of an ‘app’ for smart phones and tablets to help our practitioners screen and gather data from the 2,000 young people who were seen during the project.
I was also pleased that there was an appetite to try to replicate the Street Talk approach from researchers in a number of countries. I will be making another presentation on Street Talk at a meeting of experts in brief interventions with young people at the EMCDDA in Lisbon in January.
Another excellent presentation by Nik Koutakis explained how the Effekt programme, which offers a brief intervention with parents which has led to reductions in drunkenness by their teenage children, worked and how it had been brought to scale in Sweden.
Judy Hutchings from Bangor University explained how she had researched and then introduced the Incredible Years programme to Wales. Judy was clear about the amount of work that she’d done to ensure that the programme was delivered with fidelity and the proper levels of support for practitioners, which she saw as critical to the successes she and her team have been able to measure.
Alongside all of the presentations we also held a members meeting – at which I presented a report on behalf of the Supervisory Board – where one of the issues that was discussed was the need to attract more practitioners to become involved in the society. I can see huge benefits in this, both to practitioners but also to the research community.