In Malta, the current National Drugs Policy defines a number of actions in the area of drug prevention and underlines the promotion of healthy lifestyles. The Foundation for Social Welfare Services and the Foundation for Medical Services implement prevention activities in close cooperation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Sedqa, the Maltese government’s executive agency in the drugs field, has established a number of prevention interventions. The NGOs Caritas and the OASI Foundation run a range of prevention programmes targeting specific groups or settings, such as schoolchildren, peers, parents, the community and the workplace, while the Anti-Substance Abuse Unit within the Education Division carries out interventions in the school environment. Few interventions are evaluated.
Prevention interventions encompass a wide range of approaches, which are complementary. Environmental and universal strategies target entire populations, selective prevention targets vulnerable groups that may be at greater risk of developing substance use problems, and indicated prevention focuses on at-risk individuals.
Environment prevention approaches in Malta include the adoption of a complete ban on smoking in enclosed spaces and in playgrounds.
Universal prevention is primarily implemented in school settings. School-based programmes primarily focus on the development of life skills such as enhanced self-esteem, the ability to resist peer pressure and decision-making and on increasing young people’s abilities to express their feelings and encouraging problem-solving skills. Universal family-based prevention programmes in an interactive environment generally tackle topics related to parenthood, such as leadership styles, communication and child development, and include discussions on drug and alcohol misuse. Community-based prevention programmes primarily target families and young people in local councils, youth organisations, religious societies and social and political clubs. Community and church activities, drug awareness talks, exhibitions, concerts and drug-free activities are organised at specific times of the year and are aimed at the general public.
Selective prevention interventions are mainly school based and focus on students with high levels of absenteeism and those who have dropped out of school. A nationwide initiative, the Leap Project, aims to consolidate community resources and networks to address social exclusion issues. Other target groups are young people in schools in deprived areas, juvenile prison inmates and young offenders. Appogg, the national agency for children, families and the community, and Sedqa have brought together professionals from several fields to develop a project that aims to offer individual guidance and counselling to adolescents who are referred for support as well as their parents and partners. The unit also offers crisis intervention when homelessness or abuse is involved.