Alcohol harm in the spotlight

Wednesday November 6, 2013

​​​​​​​The Canterbury Alcohol Symposium held in Christchurch tomorrow (Thursday, November 7, 2013) will discuss the next steps for reducing alcohol harm in our region.

Dr Alistair
Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says it is great to see the issue of alcohol related harm being taken seriously. 

“Christchurch City Council’s proposed Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) will help tackle some of the main issues around the
accessibility of alcohol. The proposed law change to reduce legal blood-alcohol limits for drivers is also a step in the right direction,” Dr Humphrey says.

"While these changes will undoubtedly help to reduce alcohol-related harm, they are only part of the solution.”

Dr Humphrey says alcohol related harm
places a massive cost on the health and justice systems. Economic consultancy BERL have calculated that alcohol related harm costs Canterbury health services $63 million a year, and that’s before taking in to account the cost of alcohol-related harm on our Emergency Departments and on primary care.

“It’s important we look at the full range of possible actions to tackle the big problem of alcohol related harm.
The symposium is a great opportunity for alcohol stakeholders to discuss the merits of actions such as further reducing alcohol availability, tools to help health professionals talk about alcohol misuse with their patients, and using the internet to engage with people about their alcohol use.”

Dr Humphrey says the information gained on the day will contribute the development of a Canterbury Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy.

Leading Australian alcohol researcher, Associate Professor Peter Miller from Deakin University, will be speaking at the Canterbury Alcohol Symposium. He will share his findings on strategies to address night time alcohol-related crime and violence in its cities.

Professor Miller has completed two o
f the largest studies ever conducted into licensed venues, comparing six Australian cities over three years and talking to over 11,000 patrons. 

"The studies looked at the effectiveness of interventions for reducing alcohol-related offending and injuries. When we looked at the findings from the cities of Newcastle and Geelong, for example, we found the most effective intervention was a reduction in trading hours.

“In Newcastle, where trading hour restrictions and a number of other interventions were imposed on licensed premises, there were significant improvements in alcohol-related injuries and offending. Significant reductions in assaults and injuries have been achieved and continue to improve. There were also reductions in behaviours such as ‘pre-loading’.  

“In Geelong where the interventions such as ID scanners, CCTV and radio networks were voluntary and did not include reduced trading hours, improvements were not observed.

“The studies found some interventions, such as ‘lock-outs’ or ‘one-way doors’ as they are called here, are useful support strategies, while others – often those supported by the alcohol industry – are ineffective and counterproductive.

“Clearly reduced trading hours and other strategies can reduce the amount of alcohol consumed and levels of intoxication, then you see a change in the negative consequences,” Professor Miller says.

Page last reviewed: 07 November 2013