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20/05/2010

Eurocare welcomes the adoption of Global Alcohol Strategy by the WHO

Geneva, 20 May 2010. At its sixty-third World Health Assembly, the 193 Member States of the World Health Organization have adopted, in a consensus vote, the eagerly awaited Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol.

In the two-hour long debate at the Assembly, all member states acknowledged the harmful use of alcohol as a major public health issue. In the many member state interventions, delegates pointed to the global aspects of the problem and requested that alcohol problems receive a higher priority at the WHO and that more resources be allocated to address those problems and to implement the new global strategy.

The important concerns identified in the debate included the increasing culture of binge drinking among young people worldwide, and the expanding influence of the alcohol marketing and advertising. Delegates welcomed the varied evidence-based measures included in the strategy and their potential for successfully addressing alcohol problems.

The resolution was adopted with one amendment proposed by Thailand on behalf of the SEARO countries asking for adequate financial and human resources for implementation (inserted in par. 4 (1)).

The WHO estimates that in 2004, 2.5 million people worldwide died of alcohol-related causes (mainly heart and liver disease, road accidents, suicides and various cancers), representing 3.8 % of all deaths and 4,6% of the global burden of disease.

The harmful use of alcohol has a serious effect on public health and is considered to be one of the main risk factors for poor health globally, the strategy document says.

The resolution calls on the member states of the WHO to take public policy measures to reduce the harmful consumption of alcohol.It highlights the effectiveness of focusing on policies regarding pricing, availability and marketing of alcohol.

However the recommendations in the Strategy are not binding, they are meant to serve as guidance to WHO's Member States.

Mariann Skar, Secretary General of Eurocare stated “We warmly welcome the decision by the WHA to adopt a global strategy on alcohol. This is a key starting point in addressing the global threat to public health and social wellbeing represented by the harmful use of alcohol” and she added “Europe has a strong position and responsibility, being the world's leader on alcohol consumption and an important exporter of alcoholic beverages". She regretted that "we are exporting our drinking practices and norms to countries that lack the capability and capacity to meet the additional public health burden that results from them”.

The Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) has as well welcomed the decision by the World Health Assembly, its chairman, Derek Rutherford said: "Concerted action to reduce global alcohol problems is long overdue. Today's decision by the World Health Assembly is an important first step to address them. The strategy goes a long way in recognizing the transnational aspects of the alcohol issue. GAPA appreciates the wide range of supportive statements by WHO member states from both developed and developing countries in the discussion."

Notes to the editors:

1.- Draft global strategy to reduce harmful use of alcohol

2. EUROCARE (The European Alcohol Policy Alliance)is an alliance of around 50 public health organisations from 22 European countries dedicated to the prevention and reduction of alcohol related harm. Member organisations are involved in advocacy and research, as well as in the provision of information and training on alcohol issues, and the provision of services for people whose lives are affected by alcohol related problems. http://www.eurocare.org

3. Media contacts: Eurocare Secretariat Tel: + 32 2 233 3874 , info@eurocare.org