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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Alcohol – addressing the Public health problem

Alcohol consumption remains consistent theme as public health professionals grapple with how to tackle the two headed beast.  Its cardiovascular benefits touted while its overuse continues to challenge health and social communities.  

A new study from the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) sheds more light on the global problem,  but published in a non-accessible on-line early release in the journal Addictions Addictions abstract Mar 4 2013.    The key points are accessible through the CAMH press release at CAMH study on global alcohol exposure.  Despite all the secrecy in supposed intellectual property rights, the data relate back to 2005 and relevance can be questioned.

An unrelated article reflected upon the recent trend of alcohol distributors to target women in advertising as the largest growing sector of the population engaging in imbibing.  CBC news item March 8

Concurrently, the CAMH released a report on alcohol policies in Canada by province.  Strategies to Reduce Alcohol Related Harms and Costs in Canada  This comprehensive look at alcohol control policies is worth the read and a study in the approach.   Fundamentally a  report card that puts Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia at the top of the provincial list of alcohol responsible provinces, and Quebec, PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador in need of some improvements.   The overall provincial average being just less than 50% of a perfect score, and the range only from 35-55 showing greater congruence between provinces than divergence in addressing alcohol problems.

The ten policy dimensions of healthier alcohol policy are a great starting point for any comprehensive review of alcohol control strategies.  Details are provided on what constitutes best practice in each of these dimensions – and for this reason along the document is recommended to anyone addressing alcohol issues.  The report adds further by providing anecdotes of best practices.

The document then details a provincial comparison on each policy issue for each of the dimensions.  There are some intriguing geographic variances and some fairly easy starting points for all provinces to look at more intensely.  That the territories have been excluded from the analysis is a major oversight

It would be very useful to apply the same scoring to some of our neighbours to the south, where alcohol accessibility seems to have broadened quickly in the past years and prices are decreasing.  

Alcohol related mortality may be trending in a worsening direction over the past decade, but to find the evidence is a worthy publication.   Annual stats for the US, Health Canada reports .     Better statistics exist on alcohol consumption as inserted below from the Centre for Addictions Research  .   Some evidence from the graph suggests that after strict drinking and driving laws were implemented in BC, substantive alcohol consumption reductions were achieved.   The benefits on mortality trends may take years to see the reverses as well. 

So for public health workers addressing alcohol issues, there is lots to celebrate this week, but please do so with sobriety.  

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