What is Harm Reduction?
Harm reduction is a non-judgmental ethic that prioritizes the self-identified interests and
defined well-being of an individual over moral reasoning, prescriptive protocols, or other externally imposed requirements. It values all community members and works holistically to assess and support healthier choices according to where the community member is at. This can be strategies such as wearing sunscreen to avoid UV damage, wearing a seatbelt, or using contraceptives such as condoms to reduce STBBI transmission.
Harm reduction approaches attempt to maintain human dignity. They are designed to be
non-judgmental, pragmatic and compassionate (“come as you are”). Harm reduction does not work in isolation. It requires an integrated, cross-sectoral approach to ensure a continuum of care and support for individuals, their families, and their communities.
Harm reduction reduces blood-borne pathogen transmission, HIV and Hep C
transmission, overdose death injury(ies), and crime. The benefits of harm reduction are
that it increases knowledge and awareness, transparency, accountability and
participation, dignity and compassion, universal and interdependent rights, incremental
change, and challenges policies and practices that are harmful or maximize harm.
Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve people who use substances reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.
Central Neighbourhoods Winnipeg guiding principles regarding harm reduction practices:
“Harm reduction approaches are evidence-informed and cost effective, with many health,
social and economic benefits when applied. Reducing stigma and discrimination, addressing policies that create unintended harms, and raising public awareness are all components of a successful harm reduction approach.” — Spence Neighbourhood Association, Harm Reduction Committee.