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Trouble Brewing: Alcohol Key Contributor to Death & Disability, but Who Cares?

An estimated 3 million people die every year as a result of alcohol consumption, according to the 2018 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health released by the World Health Organisation this month.

Trouble Brewing: Alcohol Key Contributor to Death & Disability, but Who Cares?

Who doesn’t know that alcohol is a leading contributor to death and disability worldwide? But governments across the world haven’t responded to the issue with the attention, resources and action this urgent issue requires. At least that’s what a new report titled “Trouble Brewing” from global health and development organizations, Vital Strategies, the NCD Alliance, IOGT International and the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA), feels. The report seeks to debunk misconceptions about alcohol use, exposes industry tactics to market to youth and women and derail regulation, and emphasizes the urgency of implementing proven evidence-based policies.

An estimated 3 million people die every year as a result of alcohol consumption, according to the 2018 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health released by the World Health Organisation this month. Alcohol is a leading risk factor for premature death and disability among people between the ages of 15 and 49.

Dr. Adam Karpati, Senior Vice President, Public Health Programs at the global health organization, Vital Strategies said that governments have the opportunity to prevent millions of deaths from harmful alcohol use every year. ‘Trouble Brewing’ highlights actionable steps that governments and the global health community can take to reduce alcohol’s social, health and economic harms. This report is expected to empower civil society from across health and development sectors to advocate to governments to adopt these proven measures.

The report lays out the burden of the harmful use of alcohol, identifies the most important interventions governments can take, and describes the influence and threats to alcohol policy that come from the alcohol industry.

 

Globally, the harmful use of alcohol is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability and among the top risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Alcohol use also increases susceptibility to communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and contributes to suicide.

Alcohol doesn’t only harm the person who consumes alcohol: it plays a significant role in violent incidents including homicide and sexual violence and studies show that drink driving increases the risk of a fatal road crash up to 17 times.  

The report highlights the most cost-effective strategies for reducing alcohol-related harms, which are included in the WHO “Best Buys” recommendations for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases:

*Increasing excise taxes on alcoholic beverages to reduce affordability

*Regulating the availability of alcohol – how, when, and to whom it is sold

*Restricting exposure to alcohol advertising.

A barrier to strong alcohol policies has been misperceptions around the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. The most recent and rigorous analysis of the evidence showed that there is no net health benefit from any level of alcohol consumption.

Rebecca Perl, lead author of “Trouble Brewing” and Vice President of Partnerships and Initiatives at Vital Strategies said that alcohol use is increasing most noticeably in countries where marketing and use of commercially produced alcohol is expanding. The industry is targeting young people and women to increase sales, and effectively avoiding regulation by adopting largely ineffective, voluntary guidelines. Their playbook takes a page from the tobacco industry and requires a comparable policy response to protect youth and help save lives.


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