Today, European policymakers will discuss the importance, relevance and implementation of policy and action to reduce alcohol related harm across Europe. They will participate in a policy dialogue in the framework of the European Joint Action on reducing alcohol related harm (RARHA). The policy dialogue, which is organised by EuroHealthNet, aims to provide new knowledge and tools based on RARHA outcomes in three areas in particular: (1) monitoring of drinking patterns and harm, (2) drinking guidelines, and (3) finding good practice examples and building a tool kit.
RARHA’s executive coordinator Manuel Cardoso from the General Directorate for Intervention on Additive Behaviours and Dependencies in Portugal said that “RARHA has contributed greatly to enhance knowledge about alcohol related harm in Europe and how to handle it. This event is a great opportunity to showcase this to European policymakers and urge them to strengthen their actions in this field.”
The work on ‘monitoring’ was twofold. On the one hand, partners developed the Standardised European Alcohol Survey (SEAS) instrument, which was implemented in 20 European countries and covers policy-relevant issues, like alcohol consumption, risky single occasion drinking, context of drinking, drinking problems with focus on harm from others, attitudes towards alcohol policy as well as unrecorded supply.
On the other hand, RARHA aimed to strengthen comparative alcohol survey methodology. Partners collected data from 24 surveys (2008-2012) from 17 countries and established a common database of over 300,000 records. Results show for example that over 20% of men and over 10% of women drink in a hazardous way at least once a month, and that over 40% to over 50% of respondents support alcohol control measures such as high prices, restrictions on number of outlets, time restrictions and advertising bans. The EU will gain genuine benefits if RARHA SEAS is regularly applied as a monitoring tool, offering the opportunity for monitoring trends in alcohol consumption and related harm as well as for tracing changes in attitudes towards alcohol policy.
Partners working on drinking guidelines looked at current specifications of low risk alcohol consumption across partner countries, on guidelines relating to drinking by young people, on brief intervention practices and on public understanding of the “standard drink” concept. They suggest adopting the lifetime risk of early death due to alcohol as a common metric and using a common criterion for defining low risk. The latter would increase transparency when setting guidelines and contribute towards a common minimum level of protection. While a common concept of low risk drinking is considered desirable among experts, population guidelines would be best formulated at national level, not least because effective communication needs to take into account prevailing drinking patterns and harms, existing perceptions of risk and gaps in knowledge and awareness.
Last but not least, RARHA partners looked for concrete examples of good practice approaches to reduce alcohol related harm across Europe. Good practice approaches exist but are not collectively evaluated and available for use by other European countries. This European-wide assessment of alcohol prevention interventions is a unique way to improve the quality of interventions in three areas: public awareness, school based interventions and early interventions. It is a first step towards exchanging and promoting the implementation of evidence-based interventions, and for professionals to benefit from existing theoretical and practical knowledge and experience. Partners prepared recommendations for good practice approaches as well as a toolkit.
Note to editors
The European Joint Action on reducing alcohol related harm (RARHA) ran between 2014 and 2016 and involved 32 associated and 29 collaborative partners from all EU countries in addition to Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. RARHA’s final conference will take place on 13-14 October in Lisbon. You can find more information here.
Alcohol continues to be the third leading cause globally for disease and premature death. In the EU, the direct costs through healthcare, crime, policing, accidents and productivity losses were €155 billion in 2010.