"Alcohol - a blind spot among those working in global health"

Published 2020-04-20

In the March issue of The Lancet Global Health, Robert Marten, Gianna Gayle Herrera Amul and Sally Casswell write about how alcohol and alcohol policy do not get the attention the issue deserves from the global health community.

The text is open to all and can be found here, it's interesting reading.  

Non-communicable diseases (cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc.) are the biggest health challenge in the world right now. 72 percent of all deaths in the world are due to these diseases and many low- and middle-income countries are hit extremely hard. The issue has received a great deal of attention in recent years, as recently as 2018 a high-level meeting of the UN was held on the topic. 

That alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors behind non-communicable diseases is not as often noticed. Compared to tobacco, the difference is huge. Huge progress has been made here over the last 20 years. Resources have flowed in, both from states and large private donors, and courageous political decisions have been made. In 2005, the World Health Assembly adopted a global framework convention on tobacco control, which has become very important for how tobacco policy has developed around the world.  

Efforts to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol (which are much broader than just health) constantly challenged by the lack of resources. WHO adopted 2010 a global strategy in this area which certainly contains a lot of good measures, but the implementation has been slow and inefficient. In a evaluation which was presented to the WHO Board in February this year, the WHO Secretariat itself acknowledges that this work is underfunded and that there is a lack of technical capacity, also within the UN system.  

This needs to change. I let the authors themselves have the last word: 

"Policy attention to alcohol is not nearly commensurate With its threat to healththis over sight kill more people Annually than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria (the current focus of the Global FundcombinedAlcohol control is in say and urgent need of the strong champions Within the UN system afforded to tobacco controlAcademics and health professionals Have called for a framework convention on alcohol controlhoweverbefore this guidance can be made, the global health community platforms needs to recognize its blind spot." 

Pierre Andersson

Police Adviser, IOGT-NTO movement