Home > Drugs, alcohol and children’s lives – strategy to improve our understanding.

Pike, Brigid (2013) Drugs, alcohol and children’s lives – strategy to improve our understanding. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 47, Autumn 2013, pp. 18-19.

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The first implementation report on the National Strategy for Research and Data on Children's Lives 2011–20161 presents the progress made in the two years since the strategy was published in November 2011.2 

The aim of the national research and data strategy is to set out a plan to guide and support the development of research and data around children’s lives over the lifetime of the strategy to ensure that children and young people benefit from improved understanding of their lives.The strategy works towards the development of a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to the collection, compilation and dissemination of research and data on children’s lives and facilitates the use of good quality, easily accessible, internationally comparable information.
Strategic objectives
The strategy has five objectives: 
A.      to generate a comprehensive and coherent understanding of children’s development, preferences, needs and appropriate supports and services;
B.      to develop research capacity in the area of children’s research and data;
C.      to develop, support and promote good infrastructure in the area of children’s research and data;
D.      to improve monitoring and evaluation of children’s services at local, national and international level; and
E.       to support a continuum of research and data use within policy and practice settings.
Seven actions relating to enhancing research and data on drugs and alcohol are listed under strategic objectives A and C.  It is intended that completion of these actions will contribute in turn to completion of Action 37 in the National Drugs Strategy 2009–2016: ‘Develop and implement a mechanism for early identification, and onward referral where appropriate, of substance misuse among under-18 service users in the wider statutory, community and voluntary sectors’.
A10: The Department of Health is tasked with two actions to improve, and increase the use of, research and data on the topic of alcohol and drugs in relation to children’s lives. With the expiry of the mandate of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) at the end of 2011, however, no decisions on new research in the drugs and alcohol areas have been made.
A16: The Health Research Board is responsible for four actions – two involve mining ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs) and other data sources to produce electronic reports on the interaction between drug use and youth offending, and on drug misuse among children and young people, and the other two call for the publication of an annual digest of national research on the topic of drugs in relation to children’s lives and an annual report summarising existing survey data on drug misuse by children and young people.
C5: The Department of Health is tasked through the NACD with completing a feasibility study to identify data sources and research methods to provide a baseline indicator of substance misuse among youth at risk. Once established, this baseline indicator will continue to be monitored and reported on very four years. The hold up in re-mandating the NACD has seen a delay in starting this action.
Outcome areas
When developing the national research and data strategy, a forensic and systematic analysis was undertaken in order to identify research and data gaps and existing data sources and to agree priorities. Gaps and priorities were presented in the strategy according to five outcome areas, which were based on the national service outcomes defined in The agenda for children’s services.3 The outcomes are that children will be: 
1.       healthy, both physically and mentally;
2.       supported in active learning;
3.       safe from accidental and intentional harm, and secure in the immediate and wider physical environment;
4.       economically secure;
5.       part of positive networks of family, friends, neighbours and community, and included and participating in society.
With regard to outcome 3, risk behaviours such as smoking, alcohol and drug use by children, parents and others in their broader environment were to be taken into account,  and crimes committed by, and against, young people were also to be included. Preventive, protective and remedial services were also to be considered, with a particular focus on describing, documenting, identifying and evaluating interventions.
Knowledge transfer
Four issues that cut across research and data needs in all outcome areas of children’s lives were also identified in the strategy: 
(a)    development of a national strategic approach to information;
(b)   improvement of administrative data systems;
(c)    building capacity across all areas of research and data development, particularly analytic capability; and
(d)   supporting evidence-informed policy and practice.
With regard to (d), improved dissemination techniques and practices, particularly the need for material to be available in a timely fashion and for the employment of multiple dissemination techniques, were regarded as vital. The importance of knowledge transfer was recognised, particularly given the complexity of the policy-making process. The strategy highlighted the need to link data findings more closely to policy and service delivery with, for example, the development of short policy briefings tailored to the needs of particular communities. Some national initiatives already in existence which could support improved knowledge transfer were listed, including the Health Research Board’s National Documentation Centre on Drug Use (www.drugsandalcohol.ie).
1. Department of Children and Youth Affairs (2013) National strategy for research and data on children’s lives 2011—2016. Implementation report: action plan update 2012. Dublin: Department of Children and Youth Affairs. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/20177
2. Department of Children and Youth Affairs (2011) National strategy for research and data on children’s lives 2011—2016. Dublin: Department of Children and Youth Affairs. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16432
3. Office of the Minister for Children (2007) The agenda for children’s services: a policy handbook. Dublin: Department of Health and Children. https://www.lenus.ie/handle/10147/77715
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
October 2013
Page Range
pp. 18-19
Health Research Board
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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