While the Greek parliament was voting on the simplification of the availability of an antidote that can save many drug users from overdose in Greece, in London the mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, received one of the five awards at the inaugural "Partnership for Healthy Cities" Summit (PHC), in which more than 50 cities from all over the world participated, for the efforts that Athens has made in the prevention of overdose in drug users.
Speaking to APE-MPE, Bakoyannis thanked everyone who has worked with the municipality in seeking to reduce the mortality among drug users in Greece, adding that the new data now gives new hope to the relatives of addicts of possibly being able to save their loved one from an overdose through the administration of the antidote naloxone.
Naloxone is a chemical substance and an antidote can be administered to drug users in case of overdose intramuscularly and, in recent years, intranasally with a spray.
“Naloxone can make the difference between life and death. That is why we fought this battle with such passion. We now move from theory to practice. And this means that a mother who has naloxone at home can administer it and save her child."
“Naloxone can make the difference between life and death. That is why we fought this battle with such passion. We now move from theory to practice. And this means that a mother who has naloxone at home can administer it and save her child," he said.
Bakoyiannis thanked the Minister of Health Thanos Pleuris for realising the importance of the issue and providing a substantial solution to a real problem, overcoming all legal obstacles, thus ensuring access to naloxone. He pointed out that; "This award is recognition for a collective effort and I thank everyone who helps us in this initiative. The award is accompanied by a significant amount of money that will be used to continue the work being done."
How the program started in Athens
The Municipality of Athens joined the Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative, "Partnership For Healthy Cities" (PHC) three years ago and in collaboration with the Hellenic Scientific Society for AIDS & Sexually Transmitted & Emerging Diseases, the Hellenic Liver Patients Association "Prometheus", OKANA, the Ministry of Citizen Protection and all the organisations related to harm reduction, started to implement a program designed to deal with drug overdoses (Naloxone program).
Sociologist and president of the "Athina Health" prevention centre, Fotini Leobila - the "soul" of the program in Athens – spoke to the APE shortly after the award, emphasising that "the goal is to help people who are addicted to substances, to become cured from their addiction. But until that happens, we have to find a way with our various actions to keep them alive.”
It is worth noting that the risk of overdose in the lifetime of a user of psychoactive substances ranges from 30% to 70%, while as expert of the issue of naloxone Dalia Heller, vice president of Vital Strategies, points out: " it is estimated that 5% of overdoses lead to death. We worked with Athens as the problem grew in the midst of the financial crisis and we found that there was also a higher rate of deaths among people who use IVs."
The cities that took the other 4 awards
The Athens award was presented in the framework of the international cooperation for healthy cities (Partnership for Healthy Cities (PHC), organised by the World Health Organisation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Vital Strategies with the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
In London, mayors and officials from more than 50 cities around the world discussed effective interventions to prevent non-communicable diseases and injuries, as well as practices that save lives and create healthier cities.
"Non-communicable diseases and injuries are the number one threat to global public health," said Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg LP and the Bloomberg Philanthropic Foundation, in his speech, adding that the non-communicable diseases - including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases - and injuries, today account for 80% of all deaths worldwide.
Given that the majority of the world's population now lives in urban centres, the challenge for city mayors to improve the statistics related to noncommunicable diseases and injuries is great.
"These awards show us that mayors can do a lot to protect the health of their citizens. WHO is committed to supporting mayors around the world to build healthier cities, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
In addition to Athens, awards were given to the Indian city of Bangalore for its efforts to reduce smoking in public places, to Mexico City for its progress in road safety and efforts to encourage more and more people to use bicycles, in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay for healthy eating rules introduced in restaurants and canteens of government buildings and some universities, and in Vancouver, Canada for an online public health data tool that tracks population health indicators.
Since the establishment of the Partnership for Healthy Cities in 2017, members of the global network of at least 70 cities have pursued stronger public health policies and implemented programs such as tobacco control, food policy, road safety, strengthening non-communicable disease surveillance diseases and the prevention of overdose in substance users.
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