Local drug prevention strategies through the eyes of policy makers and outreach social workers in Norway
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionHealth and Social Care in the community. 2020, 29 (2), 376-384 10.1111/hsc.13096
More than half of the municipalities in Norway report drug misuse as the most important public health challenge. Following a whole‐of‐government tradition, the ambition is to achieve horizontal and vertical coordination between different policy areas to address complex problems, such as youth drug use, and avoid fragmented services. This study aims to offer new perspectives on how governmental structures shape local drug prevention. By including the perspective of both local policy makers and outreach social workers, we can come closer to understanding how local drug prevention transforms policy into practice. The study will thus explore how policy makers and outreach social workers describe the local drug prevention strategy and how the outreach social workers implement it in practice. An instrumental case study of one Norwegian municipality was used to investigate the structures for drug prevention in detail. Data were gathered through 14 interviews with public officials from the relevant policy areas and outreach social workers from a drug prevention outreach service. The data were analysed using a thematic framework analysis. This study demonstrated that the policy makers’ and outreach social workers’ descriptions of drug prevention highlighted the creation of good living conditions and promotion of protective factors surrounding at‐risk youths. This perspective may offer a broader approach to drug policy, which includes many policy areas. While collaboration was regarded as paramount, the policy makers described a “siloed” organisation that made it difficult to collaborate. The outreach social workers, however, indicated that they were able to navigate the “siloed” structures. We discuss the structural conditions surrounding outreach social workers that shape the implementation of policies, such as the resource perspective. The discussion shows that outreach social workers may act as a safety net for a potentially fragmented municipal structure for drug prevention.