Monday, July 08, 2013

Transform event 'Time to Count the Health Costs of the War on Drugs'

Professor Averil Mansfield, Chair of the British Medical Association, speaking at the Count the Costs health event

Transform, as the leading coordinator of the Count the Costs initiative, held a lunch-time meeting last month for some world-leading health professionals and NGOs. The event included presentations from Professor Averil Mansfield, Chair of the British Medical Association Board of Science; Anton Olfield-Kerr, Head of Policy of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance; and Martin Drewry, Executive Director of Health Poverty Action.

Attendees at the event came from a wide range of organisations, including The Faculty of Public Health, The Royal College of Nursing, Addaction, M├ędecins du Monde, the National Aids Trust, the People's Health Movement and Save the Children.

The lunch time session started with a presentation from Professor Mansfield, who freely admitted to being strongly influenced by the launch of Transform’s flagship publication, 'After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation'. At that time [2009] she was President of the BMA and it was not until she became Chairman of the BMAs Board of Science that she was able to take the lead on this issue. The result was a publication, produced by the BMA, entitled ‘Drugs of dependence: The role of medical professionals’, which looked at alternative approaches to drug policy and highlighted the need to deal with drugs as a health issue.

Professor Mansfield’s presentation was followed by talks from representatives from Health Poverty Action and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, who stressed, among other things, the importance of more NGOs engaging with the drugs issue, in an effort to generate pressure from civil society in the lead up to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 2016.

The event was an informal, off-the-record discussion and we were delighted by the number of newcomers to the debate who attended. We have received very encouraging feedback and hope it will lead to a number of new supporters and joint initiatives going forward, as we build up the campaign in advance of UNGASS 2016. The event was also mentioned by Tom Chivers, who wrote a great article on drug policy in The Daily Telegraph the following day.
You can also read the health briefing that we developed for the campaign here.

The dinner was the second in a series of outreach events that we are planning over the coming year in an effort to mainstream support for our Count the Costs campaign. We are delighted that the campaign now has over 100 supporters, a full list of which can be found here.

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