Andrew Brown, Director of Policy Influence and Engagement offers some reflections on the 2014 annual conference of the European Society of Prevention Research
The European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR) brings together researchers and practitioners from across Europe across a range of topics including substance use, obesity, criminal justice and mental health. Last week 180 members and delegates from across the continent attended the society’s annual conference to listen and debate the economics of prevention.
At the heart of this year's conference, at least for me, has been a question of how prevention science works to influence policy.
A number of keynote speakers raised the question of why strongly evidenced interventions remain unused while ineffective prevention continues to have the confidence of policy makers. The answers seemed to focus around three things:
· Public support for the least evidenced and hostility to interventions that may challenge their existing behaviours,
· Other actors working actively against the introduction of those policies, and
· The weakness of prevention science in developing values messages that work with the grain of evidence.
But I also heard researchers and practitioners banding together to learn from approaches that were having traction. Whether that was the Social Research Unit in the UK working closely with the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WISPP) to build robust benefit & cost models for particular interventions, or by developing international standards for prevention under the wing of either the UN or EMCDDA. I also heard presentations about designing systems that worked from the bottom up, including an impressive attempt to professionalise the workforce in school prevention coming out of the Czech Republic and a group that are in the process of designing a Universal Prevention Curriculum.