The Department of Health have recently had a paper looking at what effective interventions in public health might look like.
Matrix and Bazian reviewed the evidence for 41 interventions types across 8 areas of public policy, including: smoking cessation, avoiding problem drinking, and reducing the harm from illicit drug use.
So while their findings aren’t breaking new ground it’s instructive to look at what they believe the state of evidence is for the areas we’re interested in.
As you’ll see, what the researchers have to say is, overall, a far more positive take on the impact of drug education than I’ve seen from some others who’ve looked at similar evidence.
Reducing smoking and the harms from smoking
They find that while there’s some evidence of effectiveness in mass media campaigns to reduce smoking amongst adults they have less effect on children and young people. They say:
Overall, there is limited evidence of a low effect of mass media campaigns to reduce smoking in young people.
However, there seems to be an impact on prevalence, and estimate the cost at between £0.26 and £1.78 per capita.
School Based Interventions
Overall there is evidence of low effectiveness of school based interventions to prevent smoking or encourage cessation in young people.
While they urge caution in interpreting the cost because the only evidence they could find came from the USA they say they estimate the cost at £72 per person.
The monetary value of the health related quality of life gains associated with school education for smoking cessation exceed its costs.
Preventing dangerous drinking
As with others looking at the impact of advertising they have found that it seems to work best when part of a wider campaign:
Mass Media campaigns when linked to personal prevention activities and other legislative interventions have a moderate effect in reducing the number of alcohol related crashes.
School Based Interventions
Unlike some others the researchers for Matrix and Bazian found good evidence of the effectiveness of alcohol education:
Classroom based education programmes delivered by teachers as part of the school curriculum have a high effect in reducing harmful drinking.
They also looked at one-to-one interventions carried out in schools and say:
There is evidence that one on one school based interventions have a moderate short term effect in preventing or reducing alcohol use in young people.
In terms of the economics of alcohol education they again urge caution (pointing out the evidence isn’t from the UK) but give a range from £21 to £155 per student.
Preventing the uptake of and harm from illicit drugs
Education in School
The paper finds that:
programmes focusing on developing life skills to avoid drug use have a high effect on drug use outcomes.
As with the other interventions they suggest caution when looking at the cost (because the evidence isn’t from the UK) but say that against no intervention the evidence suggests that life skills education costs £124 per participant.
They go on to say that it appears that it appears to be cost effective:
There is strong evidence to suggest that £297 in public sector costs is saved per participant in the year following the intervention.
Support program for vulnerable young people
Also worth noting is the assessment they make of the evidence around supporing vulnerable young people.
Community based support interventions for vulnerable children and young people are estimated to have a moderate effect on use of cannabis, tobacco and alcohol.
Filed under: alcohol, drug education, illegal drugs, research, tobacco