Magdalena Harris

Dr Magdalena Harris, Associate Professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, is a qualitative researcher with a background in sociology. She conducts a programme of research with people who inject drugs oriented toward evidencing and reducing health harms related to social exclusion and illicit drug use. She is an ex-injector and is passionate about using her research to make a tangible difference, however small, to harm reduction policy and practice.

Funding sources statement:
Magdalena Harris is funded by an NIHR Career Development Fellowship (CDF-2016-09-014).

Working with people who inject drugs to inform policy and practice: Care & Prevent study impact

Magdalena Harris will present findings from the ‘Care & Prevent Study’ and discuss their impact on policy and practice. Care & Prevent is an NIHR funded fellowship, aiming to understand skin and soft tissue infection (SSTI) risk, assess associations with renal disease, and inform community-acceptable interventions for people who inject drugs. Survey data were generated with 455 people who inject drugs in London and in-depth qualitative interviews with a subsample of 36. A high proportion of participants reported a history of street homelessness (78%), bacterial infections (65%) and related hospitalisation (30%).

Magdalena will overview four findings and areas of impact: 1) overuse of acidifier in injection preparation and associated health harms; 2) unsafe use of alternatives to sterile water in injection preparation; 3) delayed prescribing of opiate substitution therapy as a barrier to hospital access; 4) use of homemade crack pipes and implications for COVID-19 transmission and adverse outcomes.

Collaboration with harm reduction providers, such as Exchange Supplies, and drug policy advocates, such as Release, has aided knowledge translation into practice. Her work highlights a deficit in care for people who inject drugs, particularly those who are street homeless and unstably housed. The context of COVID-19 creates an added impetus to advocate for transformative change.