European alcohol policies: Rethinking and strengthening implementation (F10)

Did you know that one million deaths per year in the WHO European Region are due to harmful use of alcohol? – and that these figures vary within and between countries in the region and by social group? Evidence also shows a clear relationship between alcohol consumption and life expectancy; if you decrease the former you can increase the latter. So why aren’t countries doing more to prevent this?

Well there are a number of challenges and barriers to implementation of alcohol relate policies, such as cultural resistance, strong lobbying, lack of political commitment, to name a few. Also, don’t forget about the commercial determinants of health – which relate to marketing, global money flows, trade agreements etc.

The session started with a number of setting-the-scene presentations by several expert panellists; participants were then asked to break up into groups to discuss the following challenges and to try to come up with ideas on how to address them:

  • Challenge 1: How to overcome barriers for implementing WHO best buys – policies that have proven to be cost effective – reducing availably of alcohol, taxation, and marketing?
  • Challenge 2: How to create a fora that will not end up being a ‘talk shop’ and ‘white-washing’ that avoids conflict of interest?
  • Challenge 3: How do we mobilize public support and shift the social alcohol norms to create a transformative change for health and well-being?
  • Challenge 4: How should we enforce, monitor and evaluate process in the implementation of alcohol policies and actions?

What came out of the session was the need for better understanding of the root causes and social drivers around harmful alcohol uses – to assist to establish alternative, effective interventions. Alongside that should be the implementation other interventions such as product replacement, taxation, the promotion of healthy-lifestyles, restrictions of opening hours in pubs, alcohol bans in sports centres and events, and reducing the size of alcohol bottles etc. Also, a coalition rather than a fora could be established. But whatever is done, it needs to be packaged in a clear, strong and unified message, and supported by strong collective leadership.

Written by Young Gasteiner Lucinda Cash-Gibson

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