16 June, Civil Society Informal Interactive Hearing on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, United Nations, New York, USA
GAPA was represented at the UN Civil Society Informal Interactive Hearing on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases in New York by Board member George Hacker.
In the meeting George Hacker delivered the following statement:
Good morning. I am George Hacker, Senior Policy Advisor for Health Promotion at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. I am representing that organization and the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) to highlight the timely issue of reducing alcohol problems to prevent and control non-communicable diseases worldwide.
Despite the fact that harmful use of alcohol is the eighth leading cause of death and third leading cause of global disease and disability worldwide,1 alcohol has been largely absent in global health and development discussions. It is high time for a change. Excessive alcohol use is a substantial factor in many non-communicable diseases, including cancers, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease; it is also a major factor in injuries and addiction and imposes serious socio-economic burdens on individuals – especially young people – on families, communities, and governments. That massive harm demands action, particularly in poorer countries where the convergence of increasing incomes, aggressive industry marketing, and inadequate regulatory systems create special vulnerabilities. The Outcome Statement on NCDs in September must bring new international energy and resources to fighting the staggering problems caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol.
The Outcomes document must emphasize prevention strategies and the need for national and international coordinated action, involving health, trade, development, finance, and law enforcement sectors, at a minimum. National governments must apply multiple approaches, such as those outlined in the WHO’s Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol.2 Strong evidence supports population-based policy measures to regulate the availability, price, and marketing of alcohol,3 strategies that have been effective in combating the global scourge of tobacco use. Countering the effects of the use of alcohol on public health in low- and middle-income countries must also be a priority.
Finally, vested interests must be excluded from policy making and program development. Alcohol purveyors, whose prime objective is profit, have no place at the table, for the simple reason that they have a substantial conflict of interest: reducing excessive alcohol consumption reduces their sales. Any “stake-holder” role they might play should be judged not by their contribution of funds to “partnership” nitiatives or their creation of high-visibility, yet intentionally ineffective and self-serving, “prevention” programs, but rather by their support for the many public-health policy approaches proven effective in saving lives and reducing disease.
1. World Health Organization. Global health risks: Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. 2009; available at: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/GlobalHealthRisks_report_full.pdf. Accessed June 13, 2011.
2. World Health Organization. Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. 2010; Geneva: World Health Organization; available at: http://www.who.int/entity/substance_abuse/msbalcstragegy.pdf. Accessed January 27, 2011.