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Alcohol and Drugs in NZ – An Asian Perspective

Alcohol and Drugs in New Zealand – An Asian Perspective

5 November 2004

Asians living in New Zealand do not use alcohol and drug services to any great extent, according to a new publication launched today.

The paper suggests this is due to Asian migrants lacking knowledge about the available services, the services not being culturally responsive to Asian people, and language barriers.

Limited knowledge of New Zealand’s healthcare system is also found to impede Asian people accessing appropriate alcohol and drug services. In addition, Asian people tend to seek professional help as a last resort, partly due to strong family values and a wish to avoid family shame.

This information is contained in a new publication bringing together for the first time information on alcohol and drug use and misuse among the diverse Asian populations living in New Zealand.

The paper was commissioned and published by the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) and was to be presented this afternoon to the inaugural Asian Health and Wellbeing Conference by one of the authors Vivian Cheung, a former researcher at the Asian Pacific Centre for Community Health Research at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

AUT was commissioned by ALAC to produce the paper. The Asian project team of the Community Alcohol and Drugs Services Auckland also contributed to the paper.

Key recommendations from the publication cover three main areas. It calls for more research on alcohol and drug issues in the New Zealand Asian community and the development of a consistent collection system for up-to-date ethnicity data.

Asian use of alcohol and treatment services could be improved by removing language barriers, providing more culturally appropriate services through cultural competency skills training, and developing policies in alcohol and drug service organisations that reflect different cultural needs, says the paper.

The paper also calls for a raised awareness of alcohol and drug issues in the Asian communities through health promotion.

“Asians make up 20 percent of Auckland’s current population but there has been very little research carried out on specific alcohol and health issues related to Asians,” says ALAC Group Manager Population Strategies Sandra Kirby.

Within the Auckland region, ALAC had been in discussions with agencies that have an interest in the health and welfare of Asians. They indicated that before any plans were made to introduce any particular programmes aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm, background information should be collected on the current knowledge and from that recommendations should be made for action.

In December 2003, ALAC commissioned a literature review of the current knowledge on alcohol use among Asians, along with recommendations for future action within New Zealand. After consultation with Community Alcohol and Drug Services in Auckland, the project was extended to include other drugs, with the aim of informing ALAC and other agencies on strategies and policy.

“The initiative reflects the need for a comprehensive strategy on reducing alcohol-related harm for this specific sector of New Zealand society, with its diverse communities, characteristics and cultural beliefs,” says Mrs Kirby.

“This paper reviews the existing literature in order to look at the factors associated with the increased risk of substance misuse amongst the Asian population in New Zealand and to raise any concerns that may not have been recognised, or responded to, in current alcohol and drug service provisions.

“Papers have recently been written on mental health and general public health issues among the Asian population, but this paper is the first attempt to bring together alcohol and drug specific information in regard to Asians living in New Zealand.”

ALAC believes this paper will be a valuable contribution to the knowledge on this topic, as well as provide a very useful resource for agencies that work with Asians to reduce alcohol and drug-related harm, she says.

Copies of Alcohol and Drugs in New Zealand – An Asian Perspective are available from ALAC or on line at


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