Statement of the EuroHealthNet General Council for a credible and comprehensive strategy to address alcohol harm

EuroHealthNet, convened at the Annual Meeting of its General Council, has been alarmed to learn of the withdrawal by 20 expert bodies from the EU Alcohol Forum in protest about the continuing lack of an EU strategy to tackle alcohol harm. EuroHealthNet is most concerned that organisations with whom we work in close partnership on a number of health issues feel the situation is so significantly poor to necessitate taking this step. We express understanding of their frustration and solidarity with their actions to raise awareness of the need for meaningful action.

We call on the European Commission President and Directorates-General to act urgently to bring forward a proposal for a credible and comprehensive strategy to address alcohol harm no later than the announcement of its next Annual Work Programme, therefore within 2015.

Most EuroHealthNet national and regional partners work actively on or have public responsibility for tackling alcohol related health and social issues, although EuroHealthNet is not collectively a member of the EU Alcohol Forum. EuroHealthNet is an active part of the EU Joint Action on alcohol related harm, RARHA. We represent critical stakeholders in addressing the burdens of alcohol harm.

This was rated in the latest figures in December 2014 as among the highest global risks to health.[1] The global goal is to reduce total alcohol consumption by 2025. Europe is the world region with highest consumption, highest proportion of deaths and highest loss of healthy life years due to alcohol harm, so is particularly challenged to act. The impact is not only on health but also economic potential and EU 2020 goals.

While measures are needed in the context of tackling non communicable diseases, for which harmful use of alcohol is one of the four major risk factors, that wider approach should not preclude a specific strategic alcohol action plan. There should be a particular focus on tackling inequalities within and between countries as evidence is growing that alcohol-related mortality in lower socioeconomic groups in some EU countries is increasing.

We welcome the recent call by the European Parliament for a new or renewed EU alcohol strategy, with important components to fulfil the obligations of the EU Treaty Article 168 to protect human health. We call on MEPs to step up pressure on the Commission to adopt and implement a strategy.

We welcome the current call by a member state to place consideration of an EU alcohol strategy on the next agenda of the EU Health Council. All EU Member States have already committed themselves in intergovernmental fora such as the UN and WHO to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, but cannot do so alone. We call for Ministers, whole governments and the European Council to empower the EC in urgent preparation of a meaningful EU strategy within its competences.  

EuroHealthNet believes that EU instruments are vital in protecting and promoting public health for all its citizens. Better regulation must include more effective use of those instruments for the benefits of those citizens towards the EU Treaty objective of their wellbeing.

EuroHealthNet sends this expression of serious concern and call for action to the EU Institutions and relevant stakeholders and looks forward to positive responses.

 

  • EuroHealthNet is part RARHA, funded by the European Union under the second EU Health Programme, is a 3 years action aiming at supporting Member States to take forward work on common priorities in line with the EU Alcohol Strategy and strengthen Member States’ capacity to address and reduce the harm associated with alcohol.  www.rarha.eu

 

[1] Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk factors Study 2013:

http://www.thelancet.com/global-burden-of-disease#Dec17