First and Foremost, Prevention is a Science

Dianova participates in an expert consultation on drug prevention organized by the Proyecto Hombre association in Oviedo (Spain)

Participants in consultation

Some of the participants in the consultation (left to right): Oriol Esculies – International Commissioner, Asociación Proyecto Hombre; Phaedon Kaloterakis – President of SEIRIOS and President of the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities; Regina Mattsson – General Secretary, WFAD; Lucía Goberna – Institutional Relations at Dianova; Souraya Frem – Founder and President of Cénacle de la Lumière; and Dr. Wadih Maalouf- Coordinator prevention programming at the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – photo: all rights reserved

On June 9, some twenty national and international experts met in the Asturian city of Oviedo to discuss strategies for preventing addiction (drugs and other addictive behaviours), address current challenges in the field and, finally, present the initial results of a universal prevention programme developed by the Proyecto Hombre association. The event was organized by the Proyecto Hombre association and the CESPA – Proyecto Hombre Asturias foundation, with the support of Oviedo city council.

The experts came from a wide range of backgrounds: civil society, academia and public authorities at all levels. Also present were Dr. Wadih Maalouf, Global Prevention Coordinator at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Alfredo Canteli, Mayor of Oviedo, and the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Vienna, Esther Monterrubio.

Dianova was represented by Lucía Goberna, the session’s rapporteur, who presented the conclusions at the end of the event.

Programme monitoring and evaluation

Prevention is a science. As such, it should be adequately monitored and assessed. Prevention is much more than simply raising awareness of a given problem. While it is important to raise public awareness, prevention work has many more implications. Evaluating prevention interventions is essential if we are to avoid their possible iatrogenic consequences,  i.e. the unintended harm that may be associated with them, and ensure their effectiveness. Unfortunately, there are still prevention programmes that are not only irrelevant, but also counterproductive. It’s time to change the culture of prevention.

Broadening the scope of prevention systems

To be effective, any prevention approach must take account of a holistic perspective that includes the social determinants of health and the variables of young people’s well-being (education, employment, opportunities for emancipation, health, etc.)


Although prevention is generally associated with youth, it should also be implemented on a lifelong basis, for example via interventions in the workplace.

The various sectors involved in prevention and the promotion of healthier lifestyles also need to be more closely mobilized: young people, families, the community at large and the academic world. We need to work together with the same objective in mind.

Proyecto Hombre

The Proyecto Hombre association has developped  a tool on its website to test people’s knowledge of addiction prevention (in Spanish only) – Image: screenshot of the website

Managing prevention better

One issue remains unresolved: the complex financing of interventions. This aspect has been seriously neglected in Spain because of the financial crisis and the pandemic. Many third-sector organizations are still heavily dependent on public administration, which makes them vulnerable. We need to ensure the financial viability of organizations working in this field.

Failing to invest in prevention entails significant economic consequences, in terms of health services, school failure and other issues, not only for the individual, but for the whole community. According to Jesús Morán, representative of the Spanish National Plan on Drugs, it is time to reposition prevention and give it continuity at state level.

Better management of prevention also involves professionalizing the sector at all levels, from decision makers to project managers. We also need to take better care of the professionals involved and prevent them from burning out.

Prevention in low- and middle-income countries

Expert consultation

Click to enlarge

When it comes to prevention, research is rarely based on the realities of low- and middle-income countries. When failing to do so, interventions are often irrelevant or ineffective. One should look beyond the scope of Western countries.

We must not forget that prevention work is even more necessary in countries where social and health structures have fewer resources. In these contexts, as Regina Mattsson, Secretary General of the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD), pointed out, prevention work is accessible and inexpensive.

And the work continues

Many issues were addressed, but it is important to emphasize that a lot of work needs to be done in terms of prevention of non-substance dependence (and the importance of advancing gender analysis in this area), prevention of pornography among young people, lifelong prevention and the inclusion of target groups in prevention programmes.


Go to web page

Finally, the work of the association Proyecto Hombre was presented, with data on the implementation and evaluation of the universal prevention programme “Juego de Llaves” in schools. The framework for collaboration between the Asturias regional government and Oviedo city council, which are major references in the field of prevention, was also discussed.

The meeting was quite rewarding – not only did it bring to the table the many challenges of prevention, but it also highlighted the crucial need to create a critical mass and reinforce requirements and standards in this area. Many thanks to the teams at Asociación Proyecto Hombre and CESPA for their warm welcome.

Access the recording here: part I and part II.