The government have recently launched a consultation on the plans they have for delivering their alcohol strategy which runs until the 6 February next year.
The consultation is across 5 areas that the government are planning to take action on:
- A ban on multi-buy promotions in shops and off-licences to reduce excessive alcohol consumption;
- A review of the mandatory licensing conditions, to ensure that they are sufficiently targeting problems such as irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs;
- Health as a new alcohol licensing objective for cumulative impacts so that licensing authorities can consider alcohol related health harms when managing the problems relating to the number of premises in their area;
- Cutting red tape for responsible businesses to reduce the burden of regulation on responsible businesses while maintaining the integrity of the licensing system; and,
- Minimum unit pricing, ensuring for the first time that alcohol can only be sold at a sensible and appropriate price.
We will clearly want to respond but I thought it might be useful to provide some global context from which we can draw out the importance of preventative strategies beyond the controls on price and licensing that the government have agreed on.
The World Health Organisation tell us:
- The harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths each year.
- 320 000 young people between the age of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9% of all deaths in that age group.
With such shocking figures it is unsurprising that they have developed a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
The strategy was published in 2010 but it is worth looking at to be able to judge whether the current alcohol national strategies are in line with what was signed up to at the WHO.
The strategy says:
The harmful use of alcohol can be reduced if effective actions are taken by countries to protect their populations. Member States have a primary responsibility for formulating, implementing, monitoring and evaluating public policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. Such policies require a wide range of public health-oriented strategies for prevention and treatment.
It also says:
They should also ensure that planning and provision of prevention and treatment strategies and interventions are coordinated with those for other related health conditions with high public health priority such as illicit drug use, mental illness, violence and injuries, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
The areas for action at the national level that the WHO draw out are:
- leadership, awareness and commitment;
- health services’ response;
- community action;
- drink-driving policies and countermeasures;
- availability of alcohol;
- marketing of alcoholic beverages;
- pricing policies;
- reducing the negative consequences of drinking and alcohol intoxication;
- reducing the public health impact of illicit alcohol and informally produced alcohol;
- monitoring and surveillance.
In the section on leadership the strategy calls for governments to coordinate work between different levels of government and with other inter-related strategies.
It is interesting to note that the Chief Medical Officer in England was arguing in her annual report that this balance hasn’t been found between alcohol and drug policies – arguing that alcohol treatment doesn’t receive the same level of resources as drugs.
The WHO also suggest that national governments leadership role includes:
ensuring broad access to information and effective education and public awareness programmes among all levels of society about the full range of alcohol-related harm experienced in the country and the need for, and existence of, effective preventive measures
Whether this includes school programmes isn’t made entirely clear – the document doesn’t include any mention of schools unlike, for example, primary health care or social services.