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Educational materials led to evidence-based policy implications for addiction rehabilitation in Assam


Professor of Psychology Anna Madill secured LSSI Impact Acceleration Account funding to further existing research into how her educational materials could support drug rehabilitation work with young people in Assam

‘My team and I had been working on a project, The Big Picture, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council,’ Anna explains. ‘We’d been exploring the issues of youth substance misuse in the Indian state of Assam. As part of our extensive study, we interviewed young people in recovery from drug addiction and those at risk but who had managed to stay clean. We wanted to understand how these young people had managed to be so resilient and to learn from them how best to support others facing similar challenges.’

We’ll be working with young people – particularly ethnic minority women – with drug problems to see the extent to which our pathways to recovery model makes sense in the UK, and how we can develop that model by talking to diverse young British women

As part of the study, Anna and her team developed educational materials about different pathways to recovery. This included sharing uplifting films, creating a project website – Project Resilience – from which people could engage with outcomes from the project and making educational materials freely available from the University of Leeds.  ‘This work was part of our original grant, so we already knew we were making an impact in the rehab centres,’ says Anna. ‘Yet there’s only a certain amount we could do with our initial time and budget. We needed to secure more funding to further our research and show how we could make a difference on the ground.’

Using IAA funds to distribute materials across a broader audience

Anna and her team applied to use IAA funds to share their materials with young person-focussed centres, such as schools, rehab centres and hospitals. The aim was to raise awareness of the resources and help available and allow organisations to see the benefits of using the educational materials with young people impacted by drug misuse.

‘The materials are all free to access, but we wanted to engage with the Assam government, who were in the process of developing an anti-drugs policy,’ explains Anna. ‘Policy-making stakeholders were learning more about these young people and their resilience, as well as bringing in new regulations for the rehab centres. Therefore, timely engagement with the people championing the policy was particularly important for us, as we hoped they would see their value and maybe recommend our materials.’

Building collaborative teams to work together in Assam

’One of my former PhD students, Raginie Duara, is Assamese,’ says Anna. ‘Raginie’s PhD compared British and Assamese young people’s problematic transitions into adulthood. She was able to use her academic and cultural expertise as the Research Fellow on The Big Picture and engage her mental health contacts with the project in Assam, most importantly MIND India who acted as the base for the project in the region. Though I visited Assam during The Big Picture, I stayed in the UK for the IAA-funded stage.’

For the IAA project, it was, in fact, MIND India, led by Dr Sangeeta Goswami, who hosted the impact work on the ground in Assam. As an external partner, MIND India employed Anna’s research assistant, Radhika Goswami, to support the work. ‘Sangeeta and I have a strong, long-term collaborative working relationship – so we were always in agreement about the best ways to use to IAA funding,’ Anna adds. ‘We also worked very closely with the NIRMAAN Rehabilitation Facility, one of the rehab centres we’d connected with during The Big Picture. A wonderful senior councillor, Ratul Dey, was heavily involved and instrumental in spreading the word about our resources to those who could use them.’

Expanding connections to develop opportunities

Now the IAA funding has come to an end, Anna and her team are assessing how best to progress their work in Assam in the long-term. ‘We’ve had great buy-in from the Assam government,’ Anna explains. ‘Key policy makers attended some of our IAA-funded events and were filled with praise for the educational materials and evidence-based policy implications.’

‘We’ve already had huge success raising awareness of our educational materials, so people understand how to recognise someone who might be struggling with drugs and identify whether they’re committed to rehab. We were delighted to be able to provide training in our materials to people working in the rehab centres, schools and hospitals. Furthermore, we’ve been able to hold events with rehab centres and other charities that support young people and women to understand who may benefit further from our support.’

IAA funding was exactly what we needed to accelerate our impact on our stakeholder groups

Exploring outcomes on an international scale

Next, with Netalie Shloim, Anna and Raginie have secured a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship to bring this knowledge to Forward Leeds: a Humankind charity in the Leeds/Bradford area. ‘Forward Leeds has a long term contract to deliver drug-related support to the region,’ Anna explains. ‘We’ll be working with young people – particularly ethnic minority women – with drug problems to see the extent to which our pathways to recovery model makes sense in the UK, and how we can develop that model by talking to diverse young British women. It’s a positive take on so-called reverse innovation, where we can show that much of what we’ve achieved in a low-to-middle-income-country might be implemented in a high-income country, such as the UK. It’s the clear next step for us following the IAA-funded work.’

‘There was clear enthusiasm amongst everyone I worked with, and I was very fortunate to have funding to bring attention to our free educational materials and to engage with the Assam Government on the implications for drug-related and family policy in the region. Without the IAA funding, this would never have happened.’

The IAA supports a portfolio of activities and resources across the social science community which will maximise the potential for impact of social science research and contribute to economic and societal development regionally, nationally, and internationally.  To find out more about LSSI IAA funding please visit our dedicated webpage