• Event Date: 24-Sep-2019

The role of innovation in supporting harm reduction

Harm reduction can be defined as a strategy, a programme or a practice that aims to reduce the harms associated with certain conducts of individuals and to protect public health.

Wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet, not driving when drinking alcohol, using vapour devices instead of regular cigarettes, are all examples of managing and reducing risk behaviours.

With any harm reduction initiative, the success is dependent on two factors: the potential of the intervention to reduce the risks associated with a particular activity and the number of people who adopt the intervention.

Critics of harm reduction policies argue that tolerating risky actions sends the message that this is acceptable and that over the long term, the harm done is not actually reduced.

However, several studies suggest that harm reduction works. Some Member States have invested in their national harm reduction innovation programmes and implemented a wide range of sustainable measures. This has led to positive results, not only saving lives, but also reducing casualties associated with risky behaviour.

It is argued that innovation, sustained research and evaluation of harm reduction activities are contributing to the development of programmes or products that can help consumers mitigate negative effects of risky behaviours. Yet austerity and poor political support can limit the implementation and proper support of relevant measures, therefore decreasing harm reduction success. Only with political support and appropriate funding can harm reduction strategies help avoid public health emergencies.

- Is following a harm reduction strategy a valid and desirable course of action for better protecting EU citizens? 
- What are Member States currently doing to support innovative harm reduction policies?
- What does success looks like? And failure?
- What quantitative and qualitative difference could additional funding make at the EU level?

More information: https://events.euractiv.com/event/info/the-role-of-innovation-in-supporting-harm-reduction