Experts agree on new European action plan on alcohol


WHO/Europe organized a meeting of national experts on alcohol policy in Zurich, Switzerland on 4–5 May 2011 to discuss the draft European alcohol action plan. The experts considered a series of planned surveys on alcohol and health and exchanged information on developments in policy making. Alcohol is the number one risk factor for ill health and premature death among people aged 15–59 years.

On the first day, a consultant outlined the risks of dying from alcohol. The key message was that no safe level of drinking exists, so people should talk about levels of risk and drop terms such as “safe drinking”, “sensible drinking” and “alcohol misuse”. Evidence shows a linear correlation between alcohol and breast cancer.

Action plan to guide Member States

The experts at the meeting agreed on a new draft alcohol action plan, to be discussed further by the sixty-first session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in September 2011. The action plan provides information on the harmful use of alcohol and proposes many evidence-based options for action, including protecting young people, increasing the capacity and quality of health services for disorders arising out of alcohol use, and taxing and limiting the availability of alcohol products.

A survey will be conducted to update European information systems on alcohol and health. Its results will contribute to a new WHO/Europe report on alcohol consumption, harm and policy, to be launched in early 2012. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

WHO/Europe organized the meeting in cooperation with the Alcohol Public Health Research Alliance (AMPHORA) group of alcohol experts, to facilitate the exchange of information between policy scientists and policy-makers. The Alcohol Section of the Public Health Directorate of the Federal Department of Home Affairs of Switzerland hosted the meeting.