International framework convention on alcohol control, similar to that for tobacco, is needed to confront alcohol disease burden

June 25, 2009

Despite clear evidence of the major contribution alcohol makes to the global burden of disease and to substantial economic costs, focus on alcohol control is inadequate internationally and in most countries. International health policy, in the form of a Framework Convention on Alcohol Control (FCAC), is needed to counterbalance the global conditions promoting alcohol-related harm and to support and encourage national action. This is part of the call to action in the third paper in the Lancet Alcohol Series, written by Professor Sally Casswell, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand, and Dr Thaksaphon Thamarangsi, Ministry of Public Health, Bangkok, Thailand.

The authors say: "Expansion of industrial production and marketing of alcohol is driving alcohol use to rise, both in emerging markets and in young people in mature alcohol markets. Cost-effective and affordable interventions to restrict harm exist, and are in urgent need of scaling up. Most countries do not have adequate policies in place. Factors impeding progress include a failure of political will, unhelpful participation of the alcohol industry in the policy process, and increasing difficulty in free-trade environments to respond adequately at a national level. An effective national and international response will need not only governments, but also non-governmental organisations to support and hold government agencies to account."

The paper contains a number of key messages:In the call to action which concludes the paper, the authors call on: governments to formulate and implement alcohol control policies on the basis of cost-effectiveness; on NGOs/civil society to push alcohol up the agenda; on academics to research control policies, working independently of commercial interests; on WHO member states to call on WHO to begin developing the FCAC; on WHO and other appropriate agencies to provide technical support to low- and middle-income countries to develop, implement and assess alcohol control polices; on global and regional non-governmental organisation networks to support the FCAC process; and on the alcohol industry to withdraw subversive efforts to influence effective policy development, health promotion efforts, and research agendas.

The authors conclude: "To enable this response we need: an active process of negotiation in which the international focus on alcohol is expanded; national governments to be supported and strong in their response; and non-governmental advocacy to increase both internationally and nationally. Use of international law to achieve a forum for cooperation and negotiation--an FCAC--is essential, and the initial steps that have been undertaken urgently need to be scaled up."
-end-
Professor Sally Casswell, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand T) +64 9 366 6136 / +64 21 655 346 E) s.casswell@massey.ac.nz

For full Series paper, see: http://press.thelancet.com/alcseries3.pdf

Lancet

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