An Expert Consultation on Adolescents and Substance Use in the Western Pacific Region took place in Manila, Philippines, from 23 to 25 March 2011. The consultation was organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific. Participants included representatives from eight Member States in the Region, a resource person from a WHO collaborating centre, and WHO staff (Annex 1).
The objectives of the consultation were:
- to discuss the key findings and recommendations of the Review of Adolescent Substance Use and Responses in the WHO Western Pacific Region and to prioritize future actions;
- to identify good practice models for intervention through the health sector and suggest improvements required in the health sector response; and
- to suggest actions to support countries in mounting a strengthened response to address the issues and challenges of adolescent substance use.
In the course of the consultation, the resource person who developed the review provided an overview of its findings and recommendations, while WHO Regional Office staff gave brief updates on regional activities related to adolescent health, injury and violence, mental health, alcohol, tobacco and HIV.
The experts shared experiences, illustrating evidence-informed policies which underpin a range of strategies to impact on alcohol- and drug use-related harm among young people, the roles of adolescent-friendly health services and school nurses, a range of community-toresidential programmes for young substance users, and grass-roots community actions using, for example, nutrition as a focus for broader strategies.
They also noted that health system responses required strengthening, especially in terms of the provision of adolescent-friendly health services and the willingness and capacity of heath care providers to engage with and provide accessible, affordable, accountable and acceptable interventions for adolescents and young people who are most vulnerable and at risk of developing or already experiencing substance use-related difficulties. The need for better data was identified, and for the disaggregation by age of existing data sets.
In addition, it was noted that the diversity of adolescents and young people, the range of substances used and the complexity of some presentations require an effective continuum of interventions ranging from information provision, through early and brief interventions for amphetamine, alcohol and cannabis use, to comprehensive and mixed interventions which could include family and residential components.
Specific recommendations were made in relation to the scale-up of adolescent-friendly health services, the use of quality assurance frameworks and accreditation as mechanisms to ensure interventions are effective and evidence informed, and the role of WHO in ensuring that policies addressing the use of alcohol in the Region include specific attention to adolescents and young people.