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Call for Actions to Reduce the Burden of Harms and Costs Associated With Alcohol in Canada

Although epidemiological evidence about alcohol as a major contributor to trauma, social disruption and chronic disease is mounting, the impact in Canada is not widely known, even in public health circles. In terms of the burden of illness at the population level, the impact of alcohol is next after tobacco. Both patterns and levels of consumption contribute to societal costs. Health and enforcement costs outweigh provincial/territorial revenues from alcohol in almost all provinces and territories.

The purpose of the CPHA position statement on alcohol is to mobilize the public health community to respond to the growing burden of health and social problems associated with alcohol consumption in Canada.Tackling the problematic use of alcohol, requires a combination of leadership, persistence, resources and a broad base of support at all levels. The report alone will not effect change. We need organizations and individuals to join with us to instigate, influence and lead a comprehensive approach to alcohol harm reduction. Here are some ways you can help:

Here are some ways you can help to tackle the problem:

>> Make a presentation and share the Alcohol Position Statement with your colleagues to facilitate the integration of alcohol within public health programs such as Chronic Disease, Injury Prevention, Healthy Eating, Communicable Disease, Family Health, Healthy Babies Healthy Children, and School Programs.

>> Start tracking and monitoring the population impacts of alcohol in your community. This should include monitoring of factors such as number of outlets, marketing and consumption levels.

>> Network with community coalitions to promote inclusion of alcohol as a risk factor for injuries, violence and chronic diseases

>> Develop alliances with the population relational groups (i.e. women’s health promotion, aboriginal health promotion, prenatal interventions). Engage with them in reaching their audiences to start the dialogue about the impact of alcohol on health.

>> Organize an event in collaboration with disease-specific non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and chronic disease alliances to raise community awareness of the problems associated with alcohol consumption and Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.

>> Work with Provincial and National Health Professional and Public Health Associations to engage them in advocacy, education and once available using and disseminating the screening tools that are being developed by the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and the College of Family Physicians for screening and brief interventions.

>> Promote inclusion of comprehensive information on the harmful effects of alcohol use in the core curricula of undergraduate health programs and graduate public health programs.

>> Advocate for provincial- or territorial-level population-based public policies and tell your Member of Parliament and Member of the Provincial Parliament about the Alcohol Position Statement. Click here for links to provincial/territorial and federal government contact information.

List of International, national and provincial specific alcohol strategies

Global Alcohol Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol
World Health Organization, 2010

Alcohol and Public Health in the Americas: A Case for Action
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada: Toward a Culture of Moderation
The Canadian National Alcohol Strategy (National Alcohol Strategy Working Group 2007)

Changing the Culture of Alcohol Use in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection, 2007

Public Health Approach to Alcohol Policy: An updated report from the provincial health officer
Office of the BC Provincial Health Officer, 2008

La consommation d’alcool et la santé publique au Québec: synthèse (in French)
Institut de la santé publique du Québec