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Call for action to reduce the harmful use of alcohol

Countries agree to fight the harmful use of alcohol with global strategy

News release

For the first time, delegations from all 193 Member States of World Health Organization (WHO) reached consensus at the World Health Assembly on a resolution to confront the harmful use of alcohol -- which contributes to poor health globally, can devastate families and damage the structure of communities.

Facts on alcohol

Every year, the harmful use of alcohol kills 2.5 million people, including 320 000 young people between 15 and 29 years of age. It is the eighth leading risk factor for deaths globally, and harmful use of alcohol was responsible for almost 4% of all deaths in the world, according to the estimates for 2004.

In addition to the resolution, a global strategy developed by WHO in close collaboration with Member States provides a portfolio of policy options and interventions for implementation at national level with the goal to reduce the harmful use of alcohol worldwide. The resolution endorses the strategy and urges countries to complement and support national responses to public health problems caused by the harmful use of alcohol.

Ten target areas

Ten recommended target areas for policy options include health services' responses, community action, pricing policies and reducing the public health impact of illicit alcohol and informally produced alcohol. WHO was also requested to support countries in implementing the strategy and monitor progress at global, regional and national levels.

"The resolution and the strategy set priority areas for global action, provide guidance to countries and give a strong mandate to WHO to strengthen action at all levels on reducing harmful use of alcohol" says WHO Assistant Director-General Dr Ala Alwan.

Harmful drinking is also a major avoidable risk factor for noncommunicable diseases, in particular cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver and various cancers. It is also associated with various infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and TB, as well as road traffic accidents, violence and suicides.

Implementation

Successful implementation of the strategy will require concerted action by countries, effective global governance and appropriate engagement of all relevant stakeholders. To this end, WHO will also encourage that the strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol are included as an integral part of work on global development and in related investment decisions.

For more information please contact:

Dr Shekhar Saxena
Director, Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health
WHO/Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 3625
Mobile: +41 79 308 9865
E-mail: saxenas@who.int

Dr Vladimir Poznyak
Coordinator, Substance Use
Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health
WHO/Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 3625
Mobile: +41 79 367 6213
E-mail: poznyakv@who.int

Mr Menno van Hilten
External Relations Officer
Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health
WHO/Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 2675
Mobile: +41 79 457 0929
E-mail: vanhiltenm@who.int

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