Today the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) launches Xchange (1), a new online registry of evidence-based prevention programmes. In its first phase, the registry will make available manualised interventions that European evaluation studies show have beneficial outcomes relating to substance use (2). For programmes of US origin, the registry also provides the evidence level of the evaluation studies conducted there (Blueprint ratings).
In addition to providing information on the effectiveness of programmes, the registry also offers information on the experiences of professionals who have implemented these programmes in individual European countries. This enables decision-makers to assess the ease with which programmes can be implemented in different social, cultural and organisational contexts.
The registry is the centrepiece of a growing network of national registries. Through Xchange, an interested visitor can access additional details on a specific programme in the national language within a local registry (3), or access through a national registry the European implementation experiences of a given programme.
What is the scope of the registry and what kind of programmes are included?
At present, Xchange contains 20+ manualised prevention programmes, all of which address substance use-related problems. The programme must be still active (i.e. currently in use in at least one EU country) and be judged to be beneficial in Europe by at least one European evaluation study. In future, Xchange will be expanded to include programmes that target other risky behaviours and possibly environmental interventions at local level.
Why such a European registry?
The Council of the EU’s Minimum quality standards in drug demand reduction in the EU (4) demands that prevention professionals have access to knowledge on effective prevention programmes. A growing number of programmes are considered effective at reducing substance use and related problems under carefully controlled conditions. However, access to evidence‐based prevention programmes is still limited and they remain under‐utilised compared to prevention strategies with no empirical evidence for effectiveness. Xchange aims to address this challenge by providing access to such programmes.
An additional challenge is that, even when effective programmes are used, they are not being implemented with quality and fidelity in real-life settings, often because they do not fit into the existing prevention culture and infrastructure. Xchange provides decisional support by continuously compiling information on implementation experiences with the programmes contained within it.
Users can access information on the effectiveness of a programme and on the extent to which it can be implemented. The real-life scenario in Europe’s multiple cultures is that a highly effective programme may not be easy to implement in a given country, while a less effective programme may be easier to implement. Users of Xchange will have more tools for balanced decision-making at their fingertips because the registry also allows for selecting programmes according to targeted outcomes or the risk and protective factors it addresses.
A unique feature of Xchange is that it allows national high-ranking programmes to be promoted in this European registry and, inversely, allows international visitors to find more details about local adaptations in national languages. If you would like to share your experience of implementing one of the programmes in the registry, you are invited to contribute by filling in the online implementation questionnaire (https://drugusersurvey.limequery.com/index.php/839193/lang-en).
What if I don’t agree with the evidence rating of a programme?
The registry is dynamic and constantly evolving: if you disagree with an evidence rating or are aware of new good quality studies which review the behavioural outcomes of any of the programmes included in Xchange, please send them to evidence-Xchange@emcdda.europa.eu
These will be discussed at the next meeting of the Review Board of the Xchange registry and will be taken into account when rating the evidence of the respective entry. The board currently consists of one member of the EMCDDA Scientific Committee, members of the European Society for Prevention Research, EMCDDA staff members and appointed experts. The list of current members can be found here www.emcdda.europa.eu/best-practice/xchange/about
The registry will be expanded to address an increasing range of solution-oriented interventions (e.g. prevention of overdose in the community; prevention of violence and crime and prevention of radicalisation).