"Public Health Across the Aisles: Issues, Perspectives, and Politics"
Project Lead: Kelly Anthony, University of Waterloo | HxCanada
Health policies demand solid empirical evidence from high-quality research, thoughtful and ongoing discussion, knowledge sharing, and consideration of diverse perspectives. Some issues become so polarizing that open discussion, even of solid research findings, becomes a challenge. Academics working in controversial or sensitive topic areas often find it difficult to contribute to the scientific discourse when their research does not fully align with a prevailing perspective/viewpoint. Even passive dismissal of diverse, evidence-based perspectives runs counter to the foundational value of academic freedom. Further, it limits our ability to allow for a fully informed understanding of certain research areas.
The need to hear a range of expert perspectives on illicit substance use and/or addiction (e.g., ‘safe supply’, decriminalization, or legalization) is key to developing policies that can address their social, health, and economic consequences. As major drug law policy changes are being considered and implemented in Canada, the US, and elsewhere, policy makers, healthcare professionals, and politicians need access to all relevant research. This panel was created to allow for the full and transparent consideration of challenges, possible unintended consequences, and concerns as we consider drug policy reforms. Policies must be evidence-based and effective, and they must be in the best interests of those who continue to suffer from the ravages of drug addiction.
This event, ‘‘Moving Forward by Slowing Down: Considering Diverse Perspectives on Drug Decriminalization and Legalization,” will showcase the learnings from the Portuguese National Strategy, which involved a massive shift from a focus on law enforcement to prioritizing addiction treatment and prevention. Immediately following this discussion, several Canadian addictions researchers and clinicians will share their research and experiences. We hope to provide a more complex and nuanced view of what options of decriminalization, medicalization and legalization of substances such as crack cocaine and heroin might look like in a North American context. This event takes place June 7, 1-3:30 p.m. ET, and is free and open to the public. Registration required.