Need for a holistic approach to address alcohol-related harm

The European Union clearly has a role to play in helping Member States to develop and implement effective strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm. A great deal of time and energy has been invested in the implementation of the 2006 EU Strategy, in particular through the delivery mechanism of the European Alcohol and Health Forum and the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action (CNAPA).  Progress is visible (see latest HBSC and ESPAD results), and this is a great source of motivation but there is still work to do. Action takes time and should be guided by the following principles:

Focus on the real issue: harm is the target, not consumption per se

  • Policy makers should promote targeted interventions focusing on harm reduction, rather than supporting whole-population strategies that impact all drinkers, even moderate ones.

Work with all relevant stakeholders in partnership, not in silos

  • The European Commission should bring all stakeholders together to work towards agreed, measurable targets. The current system, whereby industry, NGOs, Member States and others all work on their own specific initiatives makes no sense. It is wasteful of effort and fails to address the real issues.

Insist on a robust evidence-base to underpin effective policies and actions

  • The European Commission should keep promoting an evidence-based approach to design policies but must also ensure the reliability and the quality of the studies and research financed from its own budget.  In addition, without better frequency and relevance of data on alcohol-related harm, it is difficult to assess the impact of policies and actions effectively.