Technical Paper 3:
Preventing Alcohol-related harm in Australia: a window of opportunity
1.1 - Purpose
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This paper has been prepared for the National Preventative Health Taskforce to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information on policies and programs to prevent alcohol-related harm in Australia. While the paper is intended as an overview of the most relevant and generally available evidence, in the interests of brevity it covers many issues in summary only.
The paper attempts to answer three questions:
- What are the key trends in alcohol consumption and related harm in Australia?
- What are the most effective approaches to preventing and reducing alcohol-related harm?
- What are the gaps and opportunities for preventative action in Australia?
The paper is informed by the most current and readily available information on alcohol consumption and related harm, and the scientific literature on approaches to preventing and reducing alcohol-related harm. It draws upon evidence and examples of approaches from both within Australia and internationally. The paper summarises and acknowledges preventative work addressing alcohol-related harm already under way in Australia, and includes some commentary on its effectiveness, and also attempts to highlight gaps and opportunities for further preventative action.
The range of interventions that are reviewed in some detail in the paper include:
- Regulating physical availability
- Taxation and pricing
- Drink-driving countermeasures
- Treatment and early intervention
- Altering the drinking context
- Regulating promotion
- Education and persuasion.
An emerging theme from the paper is that there is currently a unique window of opportunity in Australia for a significant expansion of activity in the prevention of alcohol-related harm. In part, this opportunity grows from increased community and political concern about the harmful consumption of alcohol (especially focused on youth drinking) and a heightened willingness from all levels of government to take action in the area.
Furthermore, there is an increasingly solid base of evidence upon which policy decisions can be made – even from the brief review presented in this paper, it is clear which of the various policies and programs hold the most promise of being effective, and those which offer the least.
It is also apparent that there are potential synergies with other public health efforts to address tobacco, obesity and a range of chronic diseases.
The priorities for preventative action that are suggested in this paper are reflected in the overarching discussion paper Australia: the Healthiest Country by 2020.
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