Yesterday’s green paper showed a strong focus on prevention across all areas of government policy, and a focus on empowering people and communities. But could the paper have been more ambitious in making an impact where it matters?
Drinkaware’s research tells us that 15% of all UK adults fall into a ‘high risk’ category of drinking while 27% fall into an ‘increasing risk’ category (taking into account their frequency of drinking, typical units and frequency of binge drinking), and people who drink more than the Chief Medical Officer’s low-risk drinking guidelines aren’t aware of the impact drinking will have on their long-term health.
We are pleased to see the re-commitment within the green paper to interventions, such as the alcohol assessment in NHS health checks and alcohol care teams in hospitals with the highest rates of alcohol dependence or alcohol related admissions. However, despite overall declines in drinking prevalence and levels of harmful consumption, there has not yet been a decrease in alcohol-related hospital admissions or alcohol-specific deaths. In fact, a recent NHS study noted an increase in alcohol-specific deaths in England.
More needs to be done to target and support those people who drink harmful amounts of alcohol and the green paper unfortunately lacks specific measures to do this. As such, our concern is whether real impact can be achieved to reduce health harms as a result of risky drinking. Drinkaware will continue to invest in campaigns, such as Drink Free Days, that specifically target harmful drinkers to help them cut down in order to help reduce alcohol harm.
We are pleased to see pledges in relation to low and no alcohol drinks. In 2018’s Drinkaware Monitor, a third (34%) of drinkers reported drinking or having drunk a lower strength alcoholic beverage to moderate their alcohol consumption – a significant jump from 2017 (25%). Over half (54%) of the drinkers surveyed expressed an openness to trying lower strength drinks as a means of moderation.
We welcome the emphasis on local action and are pleased the paper recognises prevention represents value for money. Drinkaware will look to play a role through positive partnership at a community level to reduce alcohol harm. Our own experience of working within communities is showing the importance of health interventions in non-clinical settings. For example, our partnership with Derby County Football Club’s Community Trust saw us working with their health and wellbeing initiatives, which monitored a decrease in participants drinking at increasing risk levels over a 12-month programme.
We look forward to responding to the consultation with our insights in the coming months.