Reitox academy: professionalising the prevention workforce through standardised training

Over 50 representatives of the Reitox national focal points (NFPs) and decision-makers from more than 20 countries will gather in Prague this week for a Reitox academy on the theme of prevention (1). The two-day course will centre on the European adaptation of the Universal Prevention Curriculum (UPC), taken forward by the European Commission-funded Universal Prevention Curriculum in Europe project (UPC-ADAPT)(2)(3). Set up in 2016 to adapt the UPC to the European context, UPC-ADAPT has been piloting materials this year in nine EU Member States (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia).

The Reitox academy is organised by the EMCDDA and the UPC-Adapt Group in collaboration with the 1st Faculty of Medicine at the Charles University in Prague and the Czech National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction. The event takes place within the final conference of the UPC-Adapt project, supported by the European Commission.

UPC-ADAPT has distilled the original UPC nine-week curriculum into shorter, more intense, interactive training modules, which can be delivered in three forms (of up to five days in length). These are: training online; training for local or regional decision-, opinion- and policymakers (DOPs) and training in academic settings (future DOPs). The aim is to implement a standardised prevention curriculum with a European prevention language (European Universal Prevention Curriculum/EUPC), based on international quality standards for mid-level staff training.

The purpose of the Reitox academy is to: provide an overview of the UPC-ADAPT project and its results to date; raise awareness of the potential of European countries to launch the EUPC; and explore partnerships with universities to implement the full UPC in their syllabi.

The academy is held in Prague in acknowledgment of the Czech Republic being a pioneer and key player in developing the first accreditation system for prevention workers and one of the countries currently piloting and testing the UPC-ADAPT materials.

The EUPC training series aims to reduce the health, social, and economic problems associated with substance use by professionalising the prevention workforce and strengthening their knowledge and skills and advocacy capacity for evidence-based interventions. The first step in achieving this is through the EUPC training of current and future DOPs, during which the most effective evidence-based prevention interventions and strategies are conveyed and discussed.

The ultimate goal of the initiative is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of prevention at local and regional levels by training decision-makers to properly allocate funds for interventions with science-based approaches. Prevention can be harmful, particularly towards young people, and well-informed decision-makers would phase out the financing and support for intuitive, informational approaches, which can be unsafe.

This event is in line with the EMCDDA Strategy 2025, which aims to support interventions which prevent drug use by facilitating knowledge transfer, adoption of best practice. It also reflects the Reitox Development Framework, adopted in 2017, which calls for more horizontal cooperation between the NFPs and greater exchange of best practice through common capacity development activities.

Next year, the EMCDDA will be publishing the reference handbook of the EUPC.From 2019 onwards, the EMCDDA and future project partners are also planning to broaden the project to include ‘training-of-trainer’ events and other support-to-practice activities.