Harm reduction policy in PH pushed

Groups that have been advocating awareness and acceptance of harm reduction joined hands to push the Philippine government to include harm reduction as part of the national health policy.

Harm reduction is a public health strategy developed for adults with substance abuse problems for whom abstinence is not feasible.

Common examples of harm reduction include using a nicotine patch instead of smoking, consuming water while drinking alcohol, using substances in a safe environment with someone they trust and needle exchange programs for people who inject drugs.

Professor Ron Christian Sison, lead convenor of the Harm Reduction Alliance of the Philippines (Harap), said harm reduction can also be applied in everyday life to prevent risks, such as “wearing a helmet when riding a bike, fastening our seatbelt when riding a vehicle and using a condom when having sex, among others,”

Recently, Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) has also been pushed, a strategy where adults who are unable to quit smoking are encouraged to switch to less harmful, smoke-free alternatives.

Professor Tikki Pangestu of the National University of Singapore presented the global picture on regulations for smoke free products such as electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products during the Philippine Harm Reduction Online Forum on December 4.

Sison said Harap is working to convince the Philippine government to adopt harm reduction strategies by including it as a national health policy.

“Harm reduction policies or programs are supported by 84 countries worldwide, with 74 countries having explicit supportive reference to harm reduction in national policy documents. Harap is hopeful that the Philippines will follow suit,” he said.

Sison’s group hopes to empower individuals through education, capacity building and skills training, with the aim of making harm reduction a common practice so that many can feel its benefits.

“We work toward the awareness and acceptance of harm reduction by society, and the adoption of harm reduction strategies by the Philippine government. We are working to provide proposals for the inclusion of harm reduction as a national policy,” Sison said.

Harap is a peer-run advocacy and capacity-building association that aims to promote harm reduction. It also provides a united front and an avenue for various harm reduction groups in the Philippines to collaborate and support each other’s goals.

The group sponsors and organizes regional and national fora and conferences that gather leading experts for exchanges of best practices.

“We are committed to ensuring that Filipinos are made aware and educated on harm reduction. We believe that Filipinos have the right to be made aware of their options that would lessen the negative social and physical consequences associated with risky human behaviors,” Sison said.

Original article from The Manila Times: https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/12/22/news/national/harm-reduction-policy-in-ph-pushed/815226/