The New Zealand Medical Association has released a policy briefing—Reducing Alcohol-related Harm—that recommends a suite of measures to be considered as part of an approach to reducing the harm caused by drinking alcohol.
Incoming NZMA Chair Dr Stephen Child says that, while alcohol is responsibly consumed and enjoyed by many of us, well over half a million New Zealanders consume alcohol in a hazardous way.
“Alcohol is not an ordinary commodity,” he says. “It is a toxin, an intoxicant and an addictive psychotropic drug. Such a significant risk to the health of our people must be of concern to doctors—we see the effects every day in our hospitals and consulting rooms. Our commitment to the health of our patients means we must individually and collectively do as much as we can to reduce this harm that often occurs to people other than the individual drinker.”
The NZMA considers that the government is in the best position to implement the legislative, regulatory and policy measures needed to modify the existing environment and best protect New Zealanders, especially young people, from the health, social and economic harms of alcohol.
“As doctors, we can only do so much,” says Dr Child. “Government bodies—local and national—are in the best position to implement the policy and regulatory measures needed to combat the harm done to our communities by alcohol.
This briefing—Reducing Alcohol-related Harm—is another major piece of work for the Association, following on from last year’s briefing Tackling Obesity, which continues to be referenced by government and by public health groups.
“With this alcohol briefing paper, the NZMA has demonstrated its commitment to improving population health and reducing health inequities in New Zealand,” says Preventive and Social Medicine Professor Jennie Connor of Otago University. “It is both symbolically and practically important that the NZMA provides strong leadership for the medical profession in prevention of alcohol-related harm.
“Reducing harm requires drinking levels to come down across the population and for normal patterns to be redefined. Advocacy for putting health first will need to be strong and persistent, and will need to include one of the loudest voices in our community, the doctors. This briefing paper provides a strong basis for that advocacy.”
In Reducing Alcohol-related Harm, the NZMA makes a number of recommendations that require a whole-of-government and a whole-of-community response.