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Injury burden from alcohol

Injury burden from alcohol

Prevention of alcohol-related injury should be a major focus of preventive efforts, given that more than 70 percent of the years of life lost from alcohol use is due to injury, says new research commissioned by the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC).

Road traffic injuries are one large category where reductions have been shown empirically to result from controls on BAC with, for example, random breath testing, or by lowering the limit of legal BAC, says the researchers.

There are a number of other evidence-based specific measures for drink driving which should also be considered for implementation in New Zealand, such as zero tolerance for new drivers.

However, they point out that that injuries other than traffic injuries make an even bigger contribution to the burden of alcohol-related injury. Specific prevention policies should be implemented here as well, e.g. in the workplace, coupled with adequate enforcement efforts. This will not be possible in all areas, e.g. in the prevention of household falls. In this area, information and education have been the predominant measures, but empirical research does not show much demonstrable and sustained effectiveness of such policies. One possible secondary prevention strategy would be brief interventions thus applying a measure of proven effectiveness for reducing alcohol-related problems and harm to a new setting.

Secondly, measures should be taken to reduce the disproportionate burden of alcohol for Mäori. Based on the epidemiology, such measures would specifically address heavy drinking occasions. While there are a multitude of evidence-based measures for reducing alcohol-related harm in general, not much research has been conducted on changing drinking patterns. Again, brief interventions have been empirically shown to change drinking patterns and should be considered in programmes tailored towards problem drinkers in the Mäori population. Other measures would require specific knowledge of where the alcohol-related burden occurs, and planning access restrictions or harm reduction measures specifically in these places (e.g. bar programmes).

Finally, the researchers say the overall drinking culture in New Zealand should be taken into account. Alcoholic beverage prices have been dropping over the past decades relative to income in most established market economies. Thus, taxation may be a suitable means in New Zealand to reduce alcohol related problems..

The research is contained in The Burden of Death, Disease and Disability due to Alcohol in New Zealand released today by ALAC. ALAC funded the study on the burden of death, disease and disability attributable to alcohol consumption in New Zealand using the comparative risk assessment (CRA) methodology that was developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for measuring the impact of important risk factors on health at a regional and global level.

The research is being presented at seminars in Wellington on Monday February 7 and in Christchurch on Tuesday 8 February. Presenting the research is ALAC’s visiting fellow Professor Jurgen Rehm who is based at Shore Massey University, and has been part of the team for the New Zealand study.

He is also part of the World Health Organsiation and World Bank teams to estimate the contribution of alcohol to the global burden of disease and the implications for policy.

Also presenting are Professor Rod Jackson and Dr Jennie Connor from Auckland University who have completed a series of research projects funded by ALAC looking at the health benefits and risks and alcohol consumption, and who co-authored the report

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