World Health Organization Developing Strategies to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol
Posted Oct 04 2009 11:14pm
by Lisa Frederiksen
We often think of alcohol abuse and/or alcoholism problems as being a local, statewide and/or national problem, but it’s an international concern, as well.
On May 24, 2008, the 61st World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA61.4, which calls for the development of a draft global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol based on all available evidence and existing best practices. A draft working document is now in circulation amongst Member States with requests for feedback.
To help all of us better understand and appreciate the global scale of the consequences of alcohol misuse, below you will find six points recorded in the “Working Document for Developing a Draft Global Strategy to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol,” prepared by the World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
SETTING THE SCENE 1. Alcohol is consumed by almost half the world’s population, although there is considerable variation between and within countries, and its consumption is a part of social and cultural practices in many parts of the world. Alcohol is, however, a toxic and psychoactive substance that can lead to dependence, and its harmful use has serious effects on public health.
2. In the context of this strategy, the concept of harmful use of alcohol1 is broad and encompasses both the drinking that causes detrimental health and social consequences for the drinker, the people around the drinker and society at large, and the patterns of drinking that are associated with increased risk of detrimental health outcomes. Harmful use of alcohol is one of the main risk factors for poor health globally. It compromises both individual and social development. It can ruin the lives of individuals, devastate families, and damage the fabric of communities.
3. Alcohol is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease and is the fifth leading risk factor for premature deaths and disabilities in the world.2 It is estimated that 2.5 million people worldwide died of alcohol-related causes in 2004, including 320 000 young people between 15 and 29 years of age. Alcohol consumption was responsible for 3.8% of all deaths in the world in 2004 and 4.6% of the global burden of disease as measured in disability-adjusted life years lost, even when consideration is given to the modest protective effects, especially on coronary heart disease, of low consumption of alcohol for some people aged 40 years or older.
4. Harmful drinking is a major avoidable risk factor for neuropsychiatric disorders and other noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver and various cancers. For some diseases there is no evidence of a threshold effect in the relationship between the risk and level of alcohol consumption. A significant proportion of the disease burden attributable to harmful drinking is determined by unintentional and intentional injuries, including those due to road traffic crashes, and suicides. Fatal injuries attributable to alcohol consumption tend to occur in relatively young people. Some vulnerable or at-risk groups and individuals have increased susceptibility to the toxic, psychoactive and dependence-producing properties of alcohol.
5. The main purpose of the draft global strategy is to support global, regional and national efforts to reduce this public health burden.
6. A substantial knowledge base exists for policy-makers on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of strategies and interventions to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm,1 and, with better increased awareness, there are increased responses at national, regional and global levels. However, these policy responses are often fragmented and do not always correspond to the magnitude of the impact on health and social development. For example, legislative frameworks and mechanisms for the enforcement of existing laws are often insufficient.
You will find a wealth of information and a better appreciation (and validation) of the scope and extent of the problems caused by harmful alcohol use — it’s not just our city or our state or our country — it’s around the world. Download a copy of the full report by clicking here.