Thoughts on the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol 2014

06 June 2014

6 June 2014 WHO has published its Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health. There are many aspects of this report that I want to discuss within my blogs and I want to start with the “community approach”. What does this report tell us about the importance of the preventative and corrective work that most of Blue Cross organizations are involved within their communities?

Madeleine BOLLIGER who deals with IFBC international projects states: For the purpose of our project work, notably the country statistics are generally useful, especially to measure new trends and update our country context information. Regarding the general report, I have noted that global consumption is increasing (mainly due to China and India) while alcohol consumption in Europe and Africa is currently decreasing (pages 41-42 of the report). “Globally, total per capita consumption (15+ years) has slightly increased, with regional increases in consumption being reported in the WHO South-East Asia Region and the WHO Western Pacific Region. In contrast, there has been a decrease in per capita consumption in the WHO African Region, the WHO Region of the Americas and particularly in the WHO European Region. In my opinion, especially in Africa, this (positive) trend is likely to be reversed rather sooner than later since alcohol consumption is known to be increasing with economic development. Furthermore the alcohol industry has discovered the African continent as a new market for expansion, especially seen the high abstinence rates. Pressure from industry is currently increasing strongly on the continent.

As a General Secretary of the International Blue Cross, I am interested in analysing these matters. The report reminds us that alcohol related harm is determined, apart from environmental factors, by three related dimensions of drinking, the volume of alcohol consumed, the drinking patterns and on rare occasions also the quality of alcohol consumed. Our handbook published by Kirstie Rendall-Mkosi and Tania Diederiks: Communities Taking Action gives practical tools to influence these matters in your local communities. Please download the handbook from our website.

Level of alcohol related harm is related on universal availability of health and social care within society. Where there is unequal access to treatments or other resources, the health and social consequences of a given level of pattern of drinking are also likely to be more severe for those with less resources. It is shown in literature that vulnerable individuals are often at greater risk of having more than one individual risk factor, for example unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and tobacco use. Blue Cross organizations traditionally work with the most vulnerable and most excluded individuals and groups within societies. This report emphasizes the importance on these actions.

Harmful use of alcohol is the leading risk factor for death of males aged 15-59 years, yet there is evidence that women may be more vulnerable to alcohol related harm from given level of alcohol use or a particular drinking pattern. The most important of the societal vulnerability factors related to alcohol consumption as well as alcohol attributable disease burden is economic development. Greater economic wealth is broadly associated with high levels of consumption and lower abstention levels. At the same time, poverty acerbates vulnerability. For example, chronic drinking causes liver cirrhosis and in some societies diseases have co-factors such as nutritional deficiencies or viral hepatitis that make situation even worse. Drink driving may also have worse outcome as less affluent societies have less safe streets and vehicles. This also increases the risk of harm to others by added injuries, violence, mental health impacts and spread of disease. Many Blue Cross organizations provide pre-employment schemes and meaningful occupation activities for unemployed. People need to develop their life skills in addition to their academic and work skills in order to make considered choices in their life to avoid negative health impacts, behavioral and value choices. Blue Cross organizations pay attention to these matters, it is important to highlight that the work must continue in the light of the latest Global Status Report.

This is what the Report describes in detail and it makes me emphasize the importance of responsible actions within national substance abuse strategies. Non-governmental organizations have an important role on lifting these societal issues in discussion. NGO’s are the experts on grassroots effects of national policies as they have direct access to general public and end users of substance abuse services. These statistics are comparable hard facts and I believe each country should take their situation seriously in order to prevent negative developments for future. I want to encourage you create discussion that is the starting point for positive action!



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