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News Release

Report calls for action to reduce alcohol-related harm

Mar 29, 2012
Alcohol is big business but the associated costs of harm, both direct and indirect, is even greater and that means that strategic action is needed to save both lives and money, suggests a recently released report by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

Alcohol is big business but the associated costs of harm, both direct and indirect, is even greater and that means that strategic action is needed to save both lives and money, suggests a recently released report by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

“The recent St. Patrick’s Day rioting in London is an obvious example of the negative effects of alcohol, but there are many more harms associated with alcohol that are not as apparent,” said Janice Greco, manager of the injury and substance misuse program at the health unit. “Alcohol is the most commonly used legal drug in Canada, but it’s also a toxic substance with wide-reaching impacts on the health, safety and well-being of individuals and communities.”

The health unit recently released Focus on HealthSTATS: Alcohol-Related Harm in Simcoe Muskoka, a detailed report with a specific focus on the relationship between alcohol and health, in addition to the association of alcohol to injuries and other harm. Drinking, even in low to moderate amounts, is linked to a number of chronic health problems, including cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, liver, esophagus, head and neck, cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and strokes, liver disease, inflammation of the pancreas and alcohol dependence.

In Simcoe Muskoka, more than a quarter of residents over 19 drink above the Canadian Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines (LRDG), which is significantly higher than the Ontario rate. Twenty per cent of local current drinkers report heavy drinking, which is also higher than the Ontario rate. Simcoe Muskoka youth are also higher than the province in alcohol use, binge drinking, drunkenness and drinking and driving.

Drinking alcohol also raises the risk of injury. From 2003 to 2009 there were an estimated 6,840 injury related hospitalizations attributable to drinking alcohol among those aged 15 to 69 years in Simcoe Muskoka.

“Alcohol, alongside tobacco, is one of the leading preventable causes of death and disability,” said Greco. “And while alcohol as a way to raise revenues surfaces regularly, we need to remember that in Ontario the costs of alcohol-related harm are more than $450 million higher than the revenue collected from alcohol sales.” 

The health unit works to raise awareness about alcohol use in the community, encouraging the development of local alcohol policies and the promotion of the LRDG. More about the LRDG can be found on the health unit’s blog, howmanydrinks.org, and on twitter. However, more work needs to be done at the municipal, provincial and national level to reduce the harms associated with alcohol consumption, said Greco. They include controlling access and availability of alcohol, modifying drinking environments and stricter regulation on alcohol advertising and marketing.

The full report is available on the website www.simcoemuskokahealthstats.org. This is the health unit’s tenth Focus on HealthSTATS report, all of which provide detailed information on specific health topics.

For more information call Your Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or visit the health unit’s website at www.simcoemuskokahealth.org.

 

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