01.07.2011 New platform for promoting a diversity approach in addiction

Infodrog, the Swiss Office for the Coordination of Addiction Facilities, offers a new national platform for addiction professionals to exchange experience and knowledge of «diversity in addiction work». This is an approach that takes account not only of migration and gender, but of all aspects of the complex of problems related to addiction.

Pictures New platform for promoting a diversity approach in addiction


Diversity management is concerned with handling human diversity. The concept originated in the equality and civil rights movement in the USA and is now widely used in corporate management. In the educational field, the term «diversity education» has become current in the last few years for an approach that takes factors such as age, socio-economic status or personal resources as well as gender and origin into account. By analogy, diversity in the field of addiction involves a holistic approach to handling the multifaceted nature of the clientele and the heterogeneity of the problems involved.

Professionalisation and differentiation
The professionalisation of addiction aid has generated a broad range of services for dealing with addiction problems in Switzerland. There are services targeting women, men, young people and both male and female migrants; preventive, harm-reduction, outpatient and residential measures; abstinence-based and substitution-based treatments, and medical, social-work and social-therapy based approaches. For a long time, a clear distinction was drawn between these categories and approaches – when they were not in fact being pitted against each other. The rigid boundaries have been blurred in the last few years, making way for a broader understanding of the nature of addiction. This development is a reaction to the realities of addiction work practice, which is now confronted with a massive increase in the problems it has to deal with (e.g. new, non-substance-related addictions, polyaddiction) and in its client groups (e.g. minors, well integrated individuals, ageing addicts). Many cases can no longer be addressed using a single-issue approach. Not infrequently, financial constraints are forcing institutions to abandon target group-specific services in favour of a broader approach that encompasses a wide array of problems.

Diversity − more than just gender and migration
The target group-driven approach of the last few years has made a significant contribution towards further developing the services available in the addiction field. Infodrog and the Federal Office of Public Health have successfully implemented a range of projects for the sector, particularly in the areas of gender and migration. At the same time, however, the drawbacks of the single-issue approach have become evident. Focusing on a target group means that insufficient account is taken of other features such as age or resources. Addiction facilities with a comprehensive treatment mandate often find it impossible to give priority to a service geared to the needs of a specific target group. What’s more, the case numbers are usually too small for them to be able to maintain such specific services. However, the fact remains that the more specifically an intervention targets the problems and resources of an individual, the greater its effect is. Hence, personalised interventions continue to be indispensable, even in facilities with a broad mandate.

Diversity model requires cooperation
The diversity model lends itself readily to use in facilities with a comprehensive treatment mandate. In smaller, specialised facilities, however, it is scarcely practicable. Here there is a need for regional, cooperation-based models that take the different aspects of diversity into account. To this end, Infodrog has launched the nationwide platform «Diversity in addiction work», at which addiction professionals from all fields and language regions meet twice a year to exchange experience and transfer knowledge about «managing diversity». The experience gained at the introductory events held so far suggest that in future the focus will be on presentation and discussion of examples from good practice. There are also plans to draw up a set of guidelines on the topic.
Infodrog’s aim is to publicise and institutionalise the diversity approach in addiction work without neglecting the further development of more specific approaches. This will enhance equality of opportunity and improve the quality of care given to people with addiction problems


René Stamm, Drug Section, rene.stamm@bag.admin.ch

P.O. Box 460
3000 Bern 14

tel. 41 (0)31 376 04 01

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