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Vol 23, No. 10, October 2019   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
COLUMNS
Understanding aspects and applications of Harm Reduction in Asia
Consideration of harm reduction policies and products to avert the negative effects of addictive consumption of harmful substances.

The concept of harm reduction refers to the use of strategies and interventions targeted at mitigating the negative physical and/ or social impact associated with the problematic human behaviour, whether legal or illegal. Keeping in mind that harm reduction is focused on reducing negative consequences rather than to alleviate them. Applications of harm reduction first started out in reducing the transmission of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B and HIV through the sharing of syringes in narcotic consumption. Harm reduction has since expanded to explore other areas of public health strategies such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and drug abuse.

At the 3rd Asian Harm Reduction Forum, in Seoul, Korea, leaders and experts from the scientific, healthcare, and social perspectives gathered to further evaluate the need for tobacco harm reduction in Asia. The event was co-organized by the Korea Harm Reduction Association (KHRA) and the Indonesian Public Health Observer Foundation.

Aimed at disseminating knowledge and exchange of ideas among its participants on public health perspectives about tobacco and nicotine harm reduction policies, the forum included a range of talks providing an overview as well as applications of harm reduction in Asia.

As part of his welcome remarks, Prof. Emeritus OkRyun Moon, Chairman of KHRA, said, “Harm reduction aims to decrease the harm, through implementing a long-term plan while constantly raising the awareness of its harmful effects.”

Providing a global overview of harm reduction was Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, Cardiologist and Researcher at Onassis, Greece. Dr. Farsalinos highlighted the application of harm reduction in our daily life through the use of seat belts and helmets. Dr Farsalinos went on to explain the need for tobacco harm reduction in two main points, first is that there are more than seven million deaths caused by tobacco use worldwide. Second, is the difficulty of quitting smoking through currently approved methods or schemes.

Another keynote speaker, Prof. Tikki gave an overview on harm reduction in Asia, drew the attention to the challenges for implementation of tobacco harm reduction in Asia.

In his keynote speech, Prof. Tikki also proposed three ways moving forward. The first was a call for more effective and integrated strategy amongst key stakeholders to push for policies and behavioural change. Diving in further, he explained the need for Asia to develop stronger links and research collaborations in the present harm reduction community to boost the evidence base as well as support for advocacy. Lastly, is to work together with governments to elicit the WHO to change its position and perspective of harm reduction.

Two panel discussions by experts from participating countries were also conducted to analyse policy interventions needed for harm reduction products as well as a sharing of harm reduction perspectives on their representative countries.

Other applications of harm reduction such as linking it to the use of the hierarchy of control in assessing hazards in the workplace for occupational health and safety were also covered by various experts of their field.

Korean public health practitioners presented current regulations in relation to alcohol-related policies, the psychiatric aspect of harm reduction applications and the limitations of implementation of harm reduction in Korea.

This article was derived from the 3rd Asian Harm Reduction Forum, held in Seoul, Korea on 29th August 2019

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