Home > Club Health Dublin 2017: conference overview and highlights.

Morton, Sarah and O'Brien Green, Sioban (2017) Club Health Dublin 2017: conference overview and highlights. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 63, Autumn 2017, pp. 15-16.

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The 10th Club Health International Conference on Nightlife, Substance Use and Related Health Issues took place in the Printworks in Dublin Castle on 24—26 May 2017.1 It marked 20 years of Club Health conferences and was the first time the conference was held in Ireland. Club Health conferences enable researchers, practitioners and experts from a wide range of fields to meet, present and exchange on current and emerging evidence, policy and practice relating to protecting and promoting health in urban night-time settings as well as music festivals and holiday destinations with a clubbing or nightlife emphasis.


Club Health began in 1997 in Liverpool, a city that twinned with Dublin also in 1997. It has been hosted in partnership with organisations, government departments and agencies in many countries ever since, including the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Slovenia, Spain, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, the USA, and in 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal. A critical focus of all Club Health conferences is the interdisciplinary nature of the presentations and attendees, with the 2017 conference attracting 151 international participants from 20 countries in addition to attendees from Ireland. Conference attendees were from a very broad range of occupations and sectors, including city councils, police forces, forensics, pharmacy, medicine, health promotion, drug and alcohol treatment settings, and the night-time economy sector. There were 12 keynote presentations, over 90 parallel session presentations, and 15 poster presentations at the conference in Dublin.


Partnership with key agencies

An important aspect of Club Health Dublin 2017 was the partnership with key agencies in hosting and supporting the conference. The conference organising hub was based within the Community Drugs Programme in the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice in University College Dublin (UCD). Conference host committee members included representatives from the Health Research Board; Trinity College Dublin; Dublin City Council; National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol; Dublin Town; Irish Family Planning Association; SpunOut; Ballymun Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force; Health Service Executive; Institute of Public Health in Ireland; CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign; An Garda Síochána; and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).


Key to the success of the conference was the support from the Department of Health, particularly in the provision of the first-class Printworks Conference Centre at Dublin Castle. International conference partners included the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University; Public Health Wales; and the European Institute of Studies on Prevention (IREFREA), Portugal. Support from these agencies contributed to the strong multidisciplinary aspect to the conference, with keynote speeches and parallel sessions covering a wide range of substance use-related and harm reduction topics. These included pill testing, new psychoactive substances (NPS), prescription drug use, and substance use-related prevention and education. With 12 keynote speakers, conference attendees also had access to a significant range of expertise over the duration of the conference.


Conference themes

Club Health Dublin 2017 covered a range of themes related to healthy nightlife. Although substance use was a core focus, related and intersecting issues such as policing, violence, terrorism, sexual health, and sexual violence were also covered. A new theme for Club Health Dublin 2017 was that of social exclusion, with abstracts sought on nightlife issues in the context of social disadvantage and the crossover between such contexts and more mainstream night-time settings. A dedicated conference parallel session considered discrimination, marginalisation and mobilisation, with a range of papers presented that examined harm reduction in private party spaces, alcohol use by young people, community alcohol mobilisation, young people and cannabis use, and community drug checking in response to the fentanyl crisis. It is hoped this theme will continue on in Club Health 2019, as a converging of club, festival and socially related drug issues and those traditionally connected to problematic substance use emerges in many countries.


An Irish focus

A number of excellent abstracts was submitted by Irish researchers, practitioners and those involved in policy. In total, 15 Irish papers were accepted for the conference programme, with a further three Irish speakers delivering keynote addresses: Dr Chris Luke, Mercy University Hospital; Dr Fiona Lyons, Health Service Executive; and Dr Sarah Morton, UCD. The topics of the papers delivered within parallel sessions were divided into those that arise regularly in relation to harm reduction in the night-time environment — such as policing, public health, pill testing, harm reduction campaigns, and NPS testing and responses — and those that are emerging and relate to night-time contexts — such as chemsex and responses within and to certain communities, e.g. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) — as well as social exclusion. As with the broader conference trend, papers were presented by a range of researchers, practitioners and those working at the practice and/or policy interface.


Conference highlights

The three-day conference concluded with a final reflection on conference highlights and learning points, with a discussion panel selected from the delegates. Key points made during this session included:

  • The value of having such an interdisciplinary approach to considering harm reduction in the night-time environment, particularly the value of pharmaceutical and toxicology expertise.
  • The focus on alcohol harms, education, prevention and harm reduction, and the level of expertise, research and practice knowledge available to delegates.
  • The importance of the social exclusion theme, which was named as a welcome addition to the Club Health programme.
  • The combination of research and practice, particularly the sharing of examples of developing and enacting interventions based on research evidence.
  • The presence of international expertise in relation to pill testing and pill-testing festival interventions. 

Notably, there was a very high attendance rate of delegates each day, with lively discussions and networking during breaks and between sessions, indicating the value of the range of speakers. Feedback and comments from delegates included:


‘It was another great Club Health conference. I came away very re-inspired.’


‘Many thanks for your work towards the conference; I found it very useful. Look forward to next year!’


‘It was a pleasure to see you all in Dublin — really nice conference, well done.’


‘Many thanks again for an amazing Club Health Conference in Dublin this year. It was great to see how all the efforts you took with regard to this project were paying off — the organization was incredibly good!’


‘Thank you again for the opportunity to speak at the conference; it has given me confidence to expand on my Club Health ideas! I look forward to hopefully attending the next conference.’


‘Congratulations on a fantastic conference, it was very well organised and very enjoyable.’


‘Thank you for hosting this — [it] was such an interesting conference and [I] went away newly enthused and encouraged about my practice … so thank you.’


‘Thank you and congratulations to you and your team for the well-organized Club Health conference in Dublin.’


Legacy actions

It is hoped that lessons, highlights and emerging topics will inform the programme for the next Club Health Conference in 2019. Organising committee members Andrew Bennett and Sarah Morton will present on a panel session proposed and chaired by the EMCDDA at the Lisbon Addictions Conference 2017 on the topic of ‘Nightlife: no risk no fun? Challenges for drug prevention and trendspotting’. Andrew Bennett will present on ‘Protecting and promoting health in nightlife environments during the last three decades’ and Sarah Morton will present on ‘Emerging trends within nightlife settings: Responses and innovation’, based on outcomes from Club Health Dublin 2017. Looking to the future, we plan to continue to build alliances and share knowledge and experiences with the Club Health Dublin 2017 partners, presenters and delegates.


1 For further information, visit http://theclubhealthconference.com/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco), CNS stimulants, Opioid, New psychoactive substance, Prescription/Over the counter
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 63, Autumn 2017
November 2017
Page Range
pp. 15-16
Health Research Board
Issue 63, Autumn 2017

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