Sunday, September 03, 2006

Addressing Alcohol-Related Problems in Asia-Pacific

The World Health Report revealed that alcohol was responsible for 3.2 percent of all premature death and four percent of global burden disease.

No region of the globe remains unaffected by this growing epidemic of harm caused by alcohol. In developed countries it is the third most serious health risk factor, contributing 9.2 percent of the disease burden. In some parts of the Western Pacific Region it is responsible for 6.2 percent and in other part 8.3 percent of the burden.

Similarly, in the South East Asia Region, it ranges from 1.6 to 6.2 percent.

With the addition of social harm, through alcohol related crime and disorder, domestic violence, neglect of family, child abuse, accidents, loss of productivity and poverty, a considerable economic burden is borne by society. The economic cost of alcohol to a nation has been shown by a number of students to range from 1 to 4.5 percent of gross domestic product.

More important is the pain and suffering of innocent third parties as well as that of users. When these intangibles are assessed then the social cost at least doubles the tangible economic cost.

Responding to the situation, the Asia Pacific Alcohol Policy Alliance (APAPA) was launched during the Bangkok Policy Conference held on 11th-12th August. APAPA is a network of organizations with the mission of reducing health and social alcohol-related problems by promoting effective evidence-based alcohol policies independent of commercial interests.

The conference participants discussed experiences in the region in which economic agreements and treaties had dramatically increased availability of imported commercial alcohol with increased marketing and decreased price. This had contributed to the to very fast increases in consumption, particularly among young people, and an increase in alcohol-related harm.

The participants therefore wished to see clear reference to the need for regional cooperation in order to exclude all alcohol goods and services from economic agreements and treaties. The conference statement stressed that economic treaties and agreements should not lead to increased alcohol related harm by diluting existing alcohol policies or preventing the implementation of new evidence based policies. This can be achieved by not treating alcohol as an ordinary commodity. Participants to the conference came from organizations with an interest in alcohol issues in 18 countries in the South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) and Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) under the World Health Organizations regions.

The conference was organized by the Thai Health Promotion in collaboration with the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) and APAPA. HAIN participated in the said conference and is also a member of the APAPA. HAIN joins APAPA in its advocacy to reduce alcohol-related harm in the region and in the Philippines.

Source: Address to GAPA/APAPA Meeting by Derek Rutherford. Bangkok, Thailand, August 11, 2006; Statement from the Bangkok Alcohol Policy Conference, 2006