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Reducing Alcohol Related Harm in Canada

Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada: Toward a Culture of Moderation

By Joel Gervais

As we transition out of the Holiday season and embark on a new year many of us tend to look at lifestyle issues and how to improve overall health.  Issues like weight, exercise and our consumption of alcohol and other drugs like tobacco often arise as popular targets.  Canadians consumption of alcohol has been an area of interest among researchers and policy makers in government alike. Their studies have focused closely on our patterns of use of alcohol as well as some of the harms associated with its presence in Canadian culture.

What they found was that alcohol is no ordinary commodity. It is a legal psychoactive drug that enjoys enormous popularity and has special social and cultural significance in Canada. Alcohol also plays an important role in the Canadian economy, generating jobs and tax revenue for governments.  Canada ranks 43rdout of 185 countries in total adult per-capita alcohol consumption. Here in Manitoba we rank around the middle of the pack in terms of  daily alcohol consumption, but show a higher rate of binge drinking (5 or more drinks at one sitting) than other provinces. 

Alcohol use is a public health issue as it can contribute to health and social harms. In 2002, the cost of alcohol-related harm totaled $14.6 billion or $463 for every living Canadian. This included $7.1 billion for lost productivity due to illness and premature death, $3.3 billion in direct health care costs, and $3.1 billion in direct law enforcement costs.

The Canadian government has made some significant attempts at reducing the harms associated with alcohol use through development of a National Alcohol Strategy in April of 2007.  Entitled: Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada: Toward a Culture of Moderation, it promotes a “holistic” approach in addressing the harms associated with consumption of alcohol.  Specifically, it describes ways to better educate Canadians on the potential harms associated with alcohol use as well as guidelines for “Safe Drinking”. It also promotes a Safer Community approach and encourages limits on the sale and distribution of alcohol.  The Manitoba government was a partner in the development of the strategy and is certainly on board with its recommendations.  You may have noticed its current campaign “Moderation Tastes So Much Better”.

The following links provide more detail on the actual guidelines as well as options for alcohol treatment and education services in here in MB.

www.nationalframework-cadrenational.ca/uploads/files/FINAL_NAS_EN_April3_07.pdf

afm.mb.ca

 About the author:  Joel Gervais is a Prevention and Workplace Education Consultant with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and can be reached at jgervais@afm.mb.ca.

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