Why should the EU care about alcohol?
On June 27, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, together with EuroHealthNet, the European Association of Cancer Leagues and the European Transport Safety Council, held an event highlighting the need to address alcohol related harm at the EU level.
Alcohol is one of the world’s leading health concerns; it is one of the 4 major risk factors for developing non communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer (which affects 1 in 3 Europeans) and cardiovascular disease. According to the World Economic Forum, NCDs are estimated to cause a 25 trillion EUR output loss over the 2005-2030[i] period to the global economy ‘Preventing harm in the first place and promoting healthy lifestyles are cost effective measures for fighting diseases. They are an investment in the future savings’ said Emma Woodford from the European Association of Cancer Leagues.
The event highlighted the broad spectrum of harm caused by alcohol, both at the level of the individual and their immediate social circle, and in the wider societal context. ‘In the current context of economic crisis, keeping the focus on public health is crucial. The health and social well being of European citizens need to be put above only economic interests’ highlighted Clive Needle from EuroHealthNet.
‘Traffic collisions related to alcohol consumption remain a major cause of concern, we should all do our best to raise awareness and enforce measures to tackle drink driving’ said Antonio Avenoso from the European Transport Safety Council.
Europe is the world’s heaviest drinking region, with some European countries ranking around 2.5 times above the global average[ii]. Moreover, alarmingly 43% of 15-16 year old European students report heavy binge drinking[iii]. Alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59[iv]
Eurocare recommendations for a future EU alcohol strategy were presented at the event. ‘Due to the size of the problem and the universal impact of alcohol-related harm, is too big for governments to solve alone. It requires a comprehensive, coordinated response from policy and decisions makers at the European and national levels,’ concluded Mariann Skar from Eurocare.
[i]World Economic Forum (2010) Global risks 2010. Geneva, Retrieved from: http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/globalrisk/Reports/index.htm
[ii] WHO, Global Health Risks 2009, retrieved from: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/global_health_risks/en/index.html
[iv] WHO 2011, Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/en/index.html