In response to the growing recognition of impact of harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption on health in the EU, the European Commission launched in October 2006 the EU Alcohol Strategy. In September 2009, DG SANCO published its first Progress Report on the implementation of the Strategy.
The Report began with a comparison of the situation regarding alcohol and health between 2006 and 2009. The public health picture can be redrawn.
Based on a 2007 report from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs, heavy episodic drinking increased in young people, particularly among girls.
Countries such as Sweden or Finland with usual higher levels of binge drinking are decreasing, and conversely, countries with low rates such as Malta or Portugal are now seeing greater prevalence of this behaviour.
Within the 27 Members States, there is a huge variability in alcohol harm and it is increasing between EU10 and the rest of the region: overall alcohol-attributable mortality of men in Estonia is over 11 times higher than of Dutch men. (Closing the Health Gap in the EU Report).
A positive relation has been highlighted between affordability and consumption of alcohol, consumption and cirrhosis/ traffic injuries/traffic deaths.
As regard to the awareness of EU citizen’s, a Eurobarometer’s Survey has shown that a majority of the EU citizens support various policy measures to be implemented in the EU.
Globally, the Report highlighted three principal topics of interest: drinking and driving, young people and alcohol and the impact of alcohol on health.
Concerning drinking and driving, substantial measures have been made through countermeasures: in the EU27, the activities have doubled since 2006 and the EC Recommendation on BAC (2001) is gradually implemented. Only three members allow more than 0.5 g/l. Random breath testing become more widespread.
As regards to young people, there is a changing pattern in alcohol consumption: a higher prevalence of binge drinking and related harm, broadening across the 27. There is a need of adjustment in the perception of young people towards one of the victim and no more as perpetrators of alcohol problems.
Awareness raising-activities on the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy are on the rise, a variety of initiatives are taking place. The harm experienced by children due to adult’s alcohol use appears to be a topic that still receives relatively little coverage at national level.
Marketing and communication was also a topic that was developed.
In order to translate the strategy into action, structures have been created such as the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action(November 2007), the Committee on Data Collection Indicators and Definitions (CDCID), the Science Group of the European Alcohol and Health Forum and the new European Information System on Alcohol and Health (EISAH).
In conclusion, a great deal of activity has been done at the Community level and among the Member States since the adoption of the EU Strategy. So far, there is no evidence of substantial movement on the volume and patterns of alcohol consumption and related health harms since the adoption of the Strategy, but this was not expected at this early stage, considering the evolution of some illnesses related to alcohol consumption. Moreover, the current economic climate requires a renewed focus on a healthy workforce for the EU, particularly if the targets set by Lisbon are to be met.
DG SANCO now encourages all actors to do more within the framework of the strategic approach, while at the same time maintaining the consensus.
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