SPEAKERS at a national alcohol summit, including academics, doctors, allied health professionals and charity workers, have called on the federal government to develop a national strategy to tackle the “devastating“ harm caused by alcohol misuse.
The summit, hosted by the Australian Medical Association in Canberra last month and attended by federal Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash, was presented with alarming statistics about alcohol-related violence, the social costs of alcohol, alcohol advertising, the harmful use of alcohol in Indigenous communities, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
Speaking about the power of alcohol marketing, Professor Sandra Jones, from the Australian Catholic University’s Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, cited evidence about the link between alcohol marketing and its consumption by youth.
She said the centre’s research had shown that young people were exposed to a consistent barrage of alcohol marketing, had good knowledge of standard drinks and high awareness of standard drink labelling, and used this information to increase or even maximise consumption, and get better “value for money”.
Dr Diana Egerton-Warburton from the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM) reported that alcohol-fuelled violence towards emergency department (ED) ED staff was common. She called on the Australian and New Zealand governments to:
And in a presentation about the difficulties faced by people living with FASD and their families, Ms Sue Miers, Chairperson of the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, said the paucity of evidence about the prevalence of FASD had led to disbelief and ignorance about potential harms to the unborn child, and mixed messages about alcohol use in pregnancy.
A national education campaign was needed “not only for prevention but also to improve the overall understanding of the impact of FASD in the wider community”.
Following the summit, AMA President Professor Brian Owler called for a comprehensive national alcohol strategy to create a safer, more responsible drinking culture in Australia.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health has called on the European Union and drinks companies to introduce calorie labelling on alcohol products and undertake research, including about the potential effectiveness of using calorie and unit labelling to reduce consumption.
In a position paper released in early November, the society said the public’s health was under threat from an obesity epidemic and harm caused by irresponsible consumption of alcohol.