September 14 marks the 2nd European Atopic Eczema Awareness Day aimed to raise awareness and understanding of the disease and its impact on the people living with it. For the first time in Serbia, World atopic eczema day was held, in the city central park in Belgrade, organized by National association Allergy and me.
Host of the meeting was our colleague Snežana Šundić Vardić who leads the association.
During the event, free dermatologist examinations, educational and creative workshops for kids were conducted. This is a good example of developing an awareness of the health problems that are marginalized.
Atopic Eczema is a demanding disease and much tougher on patients than people understand. Intense and persistent itching is one of its most debilitating symptoms, leading to long-lasting pain. It nearly always restricts quality of life, impacts mental health and leads to the development of other diseases.
Each day, people living with atopic eczema experience how the disease impacts their lives beyond their skin. The new EFA Atopical Lives online photo exhibition introduces people living with atopic eczema and shows how the disease influences their daily activities and quality of life: eczema patients need to constantly adapt their daily lives to avoid additional skin irritation. They carefully choose ordinary activities such as cooking, playing sports, enjoying leisure-time or hobbies because their atopic skin requires preparation not to have symptoms worsen. Common consumer goods such as cosmetic and hygiene products, bedding or clothes are also part of their prevention strategies, leading to considerable extra-spending. The cost to get the care they need is too high: European severe atopic eczema patients spend on average 927, 12 € a year.
Atopic eczema often develops in childhood, but it can also appear in adulthood. It almost never comes alone but instead is linked to other atopic diseases: almost half of all eczema patients live with allergy to pollen, around a third have allergies to either house dust mites, animals or certain foods, and many life with asthma. The majority of mild atopic eczema patients can have their symptoms reduced thanks to moisturisers or corticosteroids. However, their recurring symptom cycles are not treated.
Around the World, 31 March is celebrated as the International Drug Checking Day – an initiative conducted by a diverse group of organizations that all play an active part in the delivery of harm reduction services pertaining to substance use. This year’s goal is to raise public awareness of the availability of drug checking services. Supporting this goal, DPNSEE is publishing this statement in order to stress the importance of implementation of drug checking services as an early intervention in different drug use settings.
At the General Assembly held in December 2017, DPNSEE member organisations listed number of benefits and challenges linked to implementation of drug checking services as an integrative harm reduction intervention. This statement outlines the attitudes of the Network following that drug checking represents an essential aspect of public health policy as recommended by the World Health Organization and has been further developed by both EU agencies and various European nations.
Even there is little evidence on the effectiveness of drug checking services on drug use behaviour or health outcomes, a history of drug checking services in other countries may help to guide good practice. Based on the results and the evaluation of the projects implemented in Europe, the drug checking service’s integrative parts ideally but not necessarily include the monitoring of drug markets for new/dangerous drugs, as well as high level potency of a certain substances. They also involve data collection on drug-taking patterns. Designing of a service that appeals to the target group offering them a full range of educational information, the recognition of early signs that might lead to problematic relation to substances, counselling and referral to services that focus on effective methods of treatment within the existing drug care system should enhance the better understanding the key population and offer the answer to an emerging crisis.
There is a growing interest for implementation of these services in most South East European countries. Legal barriers can be solved with adjustment of the current laws. That will make space for basic harm reduction program implementation within recreational settings, in places and cases where drug checking cannot be provided. Having drug checking services supported by the Government shows that the national states are taking drug use problem seriously. It also creates a path through which effectiveness of mandatory national Early Warning System, that currently lack connection to key population, can be improved. That way it can support creating clear picture about drug use on the ground, wider than only focusing on data collected through police raids, or hospital records of overdose cases or high intoxicated individuals.
The Drug Policy Network strongly supports developments towards better addressing the problem of new psychoactive substances. We invite all civil society organisations, governments and health institutions to overcome the obstacles for implementation of drug checking programs in order to create multispectral systematic response to an emerging crisis, to potentially diminish the harm and save lives.