Through a community participatory grant, Dr. Sarah Bauerle Bass, associate professor and director of the Temple University College of Public Health’s Risk Communication Laboratory, surveyed IV drug users about their barriers to getting treatment for hepatitis C. She worked with a team that included an undergraduate research assistant and staff from Prevention Point Philadelphia, a group that offers harm reduction services, such as needle exchange and free medical care, for sex workers and people with addictions.
[Photo: Dr. Sarah Bauerle Bass]
They found that most current IV drug users do not have a regular doctor and believe they’d be judged or treated differently than other patients by healthcare providers. This was in contrast to methadone patients, who are used to being in the healthcare system and most often have some type of health insurance.
It’s also difficult for an active user to prioritize going through the steps of getting medical treatment over their regular addiction-driven routine. This meant that messages for this group needed to focus more on feeling empowered and helping them access healthcare providers that understood their needs and wouldn’t stigmatize them.
Dr. Bass took these and other factors into consideration as her team created a series of posters, booklets and business cards tailored specifically to that group. They’re available at the Point Prevention location in the Kensington section of the city.
The idea, she says, was to increase awareness of the disease and have materials that addressed this population’s very specific needs so they could take the first step to get treated.
In this way, the campaign fits with Prevention Point’s approach of providing a safe space and making services and information available for when people decide to use them.
“They really have addressed the opioid epidemic for 25 years, when it wasn’t in the news,” Dr. Bass said of Prevention Point. “Their ability to meet people where they are, and introduce harm reduction, is a significant public health strategy.”
Read more news from Temple’s department of social and behavioral sciences.