Creative approach for the prevention of psychoactive substance use in Lithuania

For the first time, five district municipalities in the Health Promoting Kaunas Region, a member of the Regions for Health Network (RHN), joined forces in implementing a health-promoting camp focused on the early prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including the use of psychoactive substances in particular. The camp, entitled “Communication for health”, was organized by the Union of the Lithuanian Health Psychologists (ULHP) and the Mental Health Initiative on 4–8 April 2018 under the patronage of the Health Promoting Kaunas Region Working group.

Seventy people, including high-school students and professional psychologists, participated in this intensive five-day training experience, which centred on peer-to-peer interaction, behaviour and lifestyle. Directed towards the prevention of psychoactive substance use, the activities and communication interventions were designed to enhance the participants’ understanding of their own behaviour and peer relationships by exploring the aspects of emotion, motivation, sharing and cooperation. The camp was a profound experience for the young people, motivating many of them to choose more sober lifestyles and become involved in prevention-related activities in their respective schools.

The model used for the camp is devoted to training young people in positive and assertive communication with a focus on health promotion. The programme consisted of group discussions, role play, performances and creativity sessions, which enabled the students to improve their skills in self-control, open and authentic communication, autonomous behaviour and resistance to peer pressure.

One of the organizers of the camp, Nijole Goštautaitė Midttun, expressed the strong conviction that this complex approach – combining presentations on prevention, information-sharing, health psychology and health advocacy with creative training and performance – generates involvement, curiosity and lasting health-promoting effects.

Antanas Goštautas, professor emeritus, chair of ULHP, is one of the authors of the publication, “Sniego gniūžtė: communication for health”, which describes this prevention-focused camp model. Here, he explains that trainers of the American Professional Partnership for Lithuanian Education (APPLE) course had introduced the model to Lithuanian experts 25 years ago. The approach was adapted to the Lithuanian context and, through implementation and research over the years, its focus on communication and prevention has been enhanced. The camp has demonstrated that this approach can provide a strong impetus for young people to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The five district municipalities’ coordinated implementation of the camp provided additional synergy by improving geographical coverage, stimulating municipal engagement, optimizing use of resources and improving the exchange of best practice in the region. Symbolically, the camp began on the eve of World Health Day; it was one of the joint events planned in the Health Promoting Kaunas Region for 2018, which was declared the year devoted to the health of children and youth.  Outcomes of preventive initiatives implemented in the Region during the year will be presented and disseminated at the annual conference of the Health Promoting Kaunas Region, which will be held in Kaišiadoris district on 16 November 2018.

About the Regions for Health Network

  • The WHO Regions for Health Network was established in 1993 with the aim of:
  • creating synergy among regions and stakeholders in relation to health issues (mutual learning);
  • strengthening collaboration between regional and local actors and international health institutions;
  • promoting regional and local contributions, particularly of health authorities, to the international policy-making process; and
  • increasing the understanding of regional and local health systems (exchange of experiences).