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10 Areas For Government Action On Alcohol

10 Areas For Government Action On Alcohol

The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights ten areas governments could work with to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. These 10 areas have been adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2010, as countries agreed the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy.

Each year 3 million lives are lost due to alcohol. The WHO global alcohol strategy seeks to improve the health and social outcomes for individuals, families and communities. It is envisaged that the global strategy will promote and support local, regional and global actions to considerably reduce morbidity and mortality due to alcohol harm and the adverse social and economic consequences of alcohol.

The global strategy focuses on ten key areas of policy options and interventions at the national level. The ten areas for national action are:

  1. Leadership, awareness and commitment.
  2. Health services’ response.
  3. Community action.
  4. Drink-driving policies and countermeasures.
  5. Availability of alcohol.
  6. Marketing of alcoholic beverages.
  7. Pricing policies.
  8. Reducing the negative consequences of drinking and alcohol intoxication.
  9. Reducing the public health impact of illicit alcohol and informally produced alcohol.
  10. Monitoring and surveillance.

Area 1. Leadership, awareness and commitment

Sustainable action requires strong leadership and a solid base of awareness and political will and commitment. The commitments should ideally be expressed through adequately funded comprehensive and intersectoral national policies that clarify the contributions, and division of responsibility, of the different partners involved. The policies must be based on available evidence and tailored to local circumstances, with clear objectives, strategies and targets. The policy should be accompanied by a specific action plan and supported by effective and sustainable implementation and  evaluationmechanisms. The appropriate engagement of civil society and economic operators is essential.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. developing or strengthening existing, comprehensive national and subnational strategies, plans of action and activities to reduce alcohol harm;
  2. establishing or appointing a main institution or agency, as appropriate, to be responsible for following up national policies, strategies and plans;
  3. coordinating alcohol strategies with work in other relevant sectors, including cooperation between different levels of governments, and with other relevant health-sector strategies and plans;
  4. 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;
  5. raising awareness of harm to others and among vulnerable groups caused by alcohol use, avoiding stigmatization and actively discouraging discrimination against affected groups and individuals.

Area 2. Health services’ response

Health services are central to tackling harm at the individual level among those with alcohol-use disorders and other health conditions caused by alcohol. Health services should provide prevention and treatment interventions to individuals and families at risk of, or affected by, alcohol-use disorders and associated conditions. Another important role of health services and health professionals is to inform societies about the public health and social consequences of alcohol, support communities in their efforts to reduce alcohol use, and to advocate effective societal responses. Health services should reach out to, mobilize and involve a broad range of players outside the health sector. Health services response should be sufficiently strengthened and funded in a way that is commensurate with the magnitude of the public health problems caused by alcohol.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. increasing capacity of health and social welfare systems to deliver prevention, treatment and care for alcohol-use and alcohol-induced disorders and co-morbid conditions, including support and treatment for affected families and support for mutual help or self-help activities and programmes;
  2. supporting initiatives for screening and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful alcoholuse at primary health care and other settings; such initiatives should include early identification and management of alcohol use among pregnant women and women of child-bearing age;
  3. improving capacity for prevention of, identification of, and interventions for individuals and families living with fetal alcohol syndrome and a spectrum of associated disorders;
  4. development and effective coordination of integrated and/or linked prevention, treatment and care strategies and services for alcohol-use disorders and co-morbid conditions, including drug-use disorders, depression, suicides, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis;
  5. securing universal access to health including through enhancing availability, accessibility and affordability of treatment services for groups of low socioeconomic status;
  6. establishing and maintaining a system of registration and monitoring of alcohol-attributable morbidity and mortality, with regular reporting mechanisms;
  7. provision of culturally sensitive health and social services as appropriate.

Area 3. Community action

The impact of alcohol on communities can trigger and foster local initiatives and solutions to local problems. Communities can be supported and empowered by governments and other stakeholders to use their local knowledge and expertise in adopting effective approaches to prevent and reduce alcohol harm by changing collective rather than individual behaviour while being sensitive to cultural norms, beliefs and value systems.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. supporting rapid assessments in order to identify gaps and priority areas for interventions at the community level;
  2. facilitating increased recognition of alcohol-related harm at the local level and promoting appropriate effective and cost-effective responses to the local determinants of harmful use of alcohol and related problems;
  3. strengthening capacity of local authorities to encourage and coordinate concerted community action by supporting and promoting the development of municipal policies to reduce alcohol harm, as well as their capacity to enhance partnerships and networks of community institutions and nongovernmental organizations;
  4. providing information about effective community-based interventions, and building capacity at community level for their implementation;
  5. mobilizing communities to prevent the selling of alcohol to, and consumption of alcohol by minors and to develop and support alcohol-free environments, especially for youth and other at-risk groups;
  6. providing community care and support for affected individuals and their families;
  7. developing or supporting community programmes and policies for subpopulations at particular risk, such as young people, unemployed persons and indigenous populations, specific issues like the production and distribution of illicit or informal-alcohol beverages and events at community level such as sporting events and town festivals.

Area 4. Drink–driving policies and countermeasures

Driving under the influence of alcohol seriously affects a person’s judgment, coordination and other motor functions. Alcohol-impaired driving is a significant public health problem that affects both the alcohol consumer and in many cases innocent parties. Strong evidence-based interventions exist for preventing and reducing driving under the influence of alcohol. Strategies to reduce harm associated with driving under the influence should include deterrent measures that aim to reduce the likelihood that a person will drive under the influence of alcohol, and measures that create a safer driving environment in order to reduce both the likelihood and severity of harm associated with alcohol-influenced crashes.

In some countries, the number of traffic-related injuries involving intoxicated pedestrians is substantial and should be a high priority for intervention.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. introducing and enforcing an upper limit for blood alcohol concentration, with a reduced limit for professional drivers and young or novice drivers;
  2. promoting sobriety check points and random breath-testing;
  3. administrative suspension of driving licences;
  4. graduated licensing for novice drivers with zero-tolerance for drink–driving;
  5. using an ignition interlock, in specific contexts where affordable, to reduce drink-driving incidents;
  6. mandatory driver-education, counselling and, as appropriate, treatment programmes;
  7. encouraging provision of alternative transportation, including public transport until after the closing time for alcohol consumption venues;
  8. conducting public awareness and information campaigns in support of policy and in order to increase the general deterrence effect;
  9. running carefully planned, high-intensity, well-executed mass media campaigns targeted at specific situations, such as holiday seasons, or audiences such as young people.

Area 5. Availability of alcohol

Public health strategies that seek to regulate the commercial or public availability of alcohol through laws, policies, and programmes are important ways to reduce the general level of alcohol use. Such strategies provide essential measures to prevent easy access to alcohol by vulnerable and high-risk groups. Commercial and public availability of alcohol can have a reciprocal influence on the social availability of alcohol and thus contribute to changing social and cultural norms that promote alcohol. The level of regulation on the availability of alcohol will depend on local circumstances, including social, cultural and economic contexts as well as existing binding international obligations. In some developing and low- and middle-income countries, informal markets are the main source of alcohol and formal controls on sale need to be complemented by actions addressing illicit or informally produced alcohol. Furthermore, restrictions on availability that are too strict may promote the development of a parallel illicit market. Secondary supply of alcohol, for example from parents or friends, needs also to be taken into consideration in measures on the availability of alcohol.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. establishing, operating and enforcing an appropriate system to regulate production, wholesaling and serving of alcoholic beverages that places reasonable limitations on the distribution of alcohol and the operation of alcohol outlets in accordance with cultural norms, by the following possible measures:
    1. introducing, where appropriate, a licensing system on retail sales, or public health- oriented government monopolies;
    2. regulating the number and location of on-premise and off-premise alcohol outlets;
    3. regulating days and hours of retail sales;
    4. regulating modes of retail sales of alcohol;
    5. regulating retail sales in certain places or during special events;
  2. establishing an appropriate minimum age for purchase or consumption of alcoholic beverages and other policies in order to raise barriers against sales to, and consumption of alcoholic beverages by, adolescents;
  3. adopting policies to prevent sales to intoxicated persons and those below the legal age and considering the introduction of mechanisms for placing liability on sellers and servers in accordance with national legislations;
  4. setting policies regarding alcohol use in public places or at official public agencies’ activities and functions;
  5. adopting policies to reduce and eliminate availability of illicit production, sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages as well as to regulate or control informal alcohol.

Area 6. Marketing of alcoholic beverages

Reducing the impact of marketing, particularly on young people and adolescents, is an important consideration in preventing and reducing alcohol harm. Alcohol is marketed through increasingly sophisticated advertising and promotion techniques, including linking alcohol brands to sports and cultural activities, sponsorships and product placements, and new marketing techniques such as e‑mails, SMS and podcasting, social media and other communication techniques. The transmission of alcohol marketing messages across national borders and jurisdictions on channels such as satellite television and the Internet, and sponsorship of sports and cultural events is emerging as a serious concern in some countries.

It is very difficult to target young adult consumers without exposing cohorts of adolescents under the legal age to the same marketing. The exposure of children and young people to appealing marketing is of particular concern, as is the targeting of new markets in developing and low- and middle-income countries with a current low prevalence of alcohol consumption or high abstinence rates.

Both the content of alcohol marketing and the amount of exposure of young people to that marketing are crucial issues. A precautionary approach to protecting young people against these marketing techniques should be considered.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. setting up regulatory or co-regulatory frameworks, preferably with a legislative basis, and supported when appropriate by self-regulatory measures, for alcohol marketing by:
    1. regulating the content and the volume of marketing;
    2. regulating direct or indirect marketing in certain or all media;
    3. regulating sponsorship activities that promote alcoholic beverages;
    4. restricting or banning promotions in connection with activities targeting young people;
    5. regulating new forms of alcohol marketing techniques, for instance social media;
  2. development by public agencies or independent bodies of effective systems of surveillance of marketing of alcohol products;
  3. setting up effective administrative and deterrence systems for infringements on marketing restrictions.

Area 7. Pricing policies

Consumers, including heavy alcohol users and young people, are sensitive to changes in the price of alcohol products. Pricing policies can be used to reduce underage alcohol use, to halt progression towards consuming large volumes of alcohol and/or episodes of heavy alcohol intake, and to influence consumers’ preferences. Increasing the price of alcoholic beverages is one of the most effective interventions to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. A key factor for the success of price-related policies in reducing alcohol harm is an effective and efficient system for taxation matched by adequate tax collection and enforcement.

Factors such as consumer preferences and choice, changes in income, alternative sources for alcohol in the country or in neighbouring countries, and the presence or absence of other alcohol policy measures may influence the effectiveness of this policy option. Demand for different beverages may be affected differently. Tax increases can have different impacts on sales, depending on how they affect the price to the consumer. The existence of a substantial illicit market for alcohol complicates policy considerations on taxation in many countries. In such circumstances tax changes must be accompanied by efforts to bring the illicit and informal markets under effective government control. Increased taxation can also meet resistance from consumer groups and economic operators, and taxation policy will benefit from the support of information and awareness-building measures to counter such resistance.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. establishing a system for specific domestic taxation, on alcohol accompanied by an effective enforcement system, which may take into account, as appropriate, the alcoholic content of the beverage;
  2. regularly reviewing prices in relation to level of inflation and income;
  3. banning or restricting the use of direct and indirect price promotions, discount sales, sales below cost and flat rates for unlimited drinking or other types of volume sales;
  4. establishing minimum prices for alcohol where applicable;
  5. providing price incentives for non-alcoholic beverages;
  6. reducing or stopping subsidies to economic operators in the area of alcohol.

Area 8. Reducing the negative consequences of alcohol use and alcohol intoxication

This target area includes policy options and interventions that focus directly on reducing the harm from alcohol intoxication and alcohol use without necessarily affecting the underlying alcohol consumption. Current evidence and good practices favour the complementary use of interventions within a broader strategy that prevents or reduces the negative consequences of alcohol use and alcohol intoxication. In implementing these approaches, managing the alcohol consumption environment or informing consumers, the perception of endorsing or promoting alcohol use should be avoided.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. regulating the alcohol consumption context in order to prevent and reduce violence and disruptive behaviour, including serving alcohol in plastic containers or shatter-proof glass and management of alcohol-related issues at large-scale public events;
  2. enforcing laws against serving to intoxication and legal liability for consequences of harm resulting from intoxication caused by the serving of alcohol;
  3. enacting management policies relating to responsible serving of beverage on premises and training staff in relevant sectors in how better to prevent, identify and manage intoxicated and aggressive alcohol users;
  4. reducing the alcoholic strength inside different beverage categories;
  5. providing necessary care or shelter for severely intoxicated people;
  6. providing consumer information about, and labeling alcoholic beverages to indicate, the harm related to alcohol.

Area 9. Reducing the public health impact of illicit alcohol and informally produced alcohol

Consumption of illicitly or informally produced alcohol could have additional negative health consequences due to a higher ethanol content and potential contamination with toxic substances, such as methanol. It may also hamper governments’ abilities to tax and control legally produced alcohol.

Actions to reduce these additional negative effects should be taken according to the prevalence of illicit and/or informal alcohol consumption and the associated harm. Good scientific, technical and institutional capacity should be in place for the planning and implementation of appropriate national, regional and international measures. Good market knowledge and insight into the composition and production of informal or illicit alcohol are also important, coupled with an appropriate legislative framework and active enforcement.

These interventions should complement, not replace, other interventions to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.

Production and sale of informal alcohol are ingrained in many cultures and are often informally controlled. Thus control measures could be different for illicit alcohol and informally produced alcohol and should be combined with awareness raising and community mobilization. Efforts to stimulate alternative sources of income are also important.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. good quality control with regard to production and distribution of alcoholic beverages;
  2. regulating sales of informally produced alcohol and bringing it into the taxation system;
  3. an efficient control and enforcement system, including tax stamps;
  4. developing or strengthening tracking and tracing systems for illicit alcohol;
  5. ensuring necessary cooperation and exchange of relevant information on combating illicit alcohol among authorities at national and international levels;
  6. issuing relevant public warnings about contaminants and other health threats from informal or illicit alcohol.

Area 10. Monitoring and surveillance

Data from monitoring and surveillance create the basis for the success and appropriate delivery of the other nine policy options. Local, national and international monitoring and surveillance are needed in order to monitor the magnitude and trends of alcohol-related harms, to strengthen advocacy, to formulate policies and to assess impact of interventions.

Monitoring should also capture the profile of people accessing services and the reason why people most affected are not accessing prevention and treatment services. Data may be available in other sectors, and good systems for coordination, information exchange and collaboration are necessary in order to collect the potentially broad range of information needed to have comprehensive monitoring and surveillance.

Development of sustainable national information systems using indicators, definitions and data-collection procedures compatible with WHO’s global and regional information systems provides an important basis for effective  evaluation of national efforts to prevent and reduce alcohol harm and for monitoring trends at subregional, regional and global levels.

Systematic continual collection, collation and analysis of data, timely dissemination of information and feedback to policy-makers and other stakeholders should be an integral part of implementation of any policy and intervention to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. Collecting, analysing and disseminating information on alcohol harm are resource-intensive activities.

For this area policy options and interventions include:

  1. establishing effective frameworks for monitoring and surveillance activities including periodic national surveys on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm and a plan for exchange and dissemination of information;
  2. establishing or designating an institution or other organizational entity responsible for collecting, collating, analysing and disseminating available data, including  publishing national reports;
  3. defining and tracking a common set of indicators of alcohol use and related harm and of policy responses and interventions to prevent and reduce such use;
  4. creating a repository of data at the country level based on internationally agreed indicators and reporting data in the agreed format to WHO and other relevant international organizations;
  5. developing  evaluation mechanisms with the collected data in order to determine the impact of policy measures, interventions and programmes put in place to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.

WHO Launches SAFER Alcohol Control Initiative To Curb Alcohol Harm

WHO-led initiative and action package aim to support global target of reducing harmful use of alcohol by 10% by 2025.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a groundbreaking new initiative and technical package called SAFER – outlining five high-impact strategies that can help governments prevent and reduce alcohol harm and related health, social and economic consequences.

  • Strengthen restrictions on alcohol availability.
  • Advance and enforce drink driving countermeasures.
  • Facilitate access to screening, brief interventions, and treatment.
  • Enforce bans or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotion.
  • Raise prices on alcohol through excise taxes and pricing policies.

New SAFER Initiative Launched At United Nations

SAFER is the newest WHO-led roadmap to support governments in taking cost-effective steps to accelerate progress on healt, social justice and sustainable development through addressing alcohol harm.

We are proud to introduce SAFER – a package of proven interventions to reduce the harms caused by alcohol, and a new partnership to catalyze global action,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

We need governments to put in place effective alcohol control policy options and public policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.”

Source Website: World Health Organization