WHO Western Pacific regional meeting on reducing alcohol-related harm completed
13 Apr 2012
Representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and countries in the Western Pacific met in Hong Kong from April 10 to 13 to discuss the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through reduction of alcohol-related harm.
The event, entitled "World Health Organization Western Pacific Regional Meeting on NCD Prevention and Control through Reduction of Alcohol-related Harm", was jointly organised by the Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) of the WHO and the Department of Health. The four-day meeting, completed today (April 13), was attended by about 60 participants from 11 countries/areas.
Launching the event, the Regional Director for the Western Pacific of WHO, Dr Shin Young-soo, remarked that the meeting was organised to equip member states with the knowledge and tools to take action to reduce alcohol-related harm.
Dr Shin said that alcohol consumption is the third leading risk factor for the global burden of disease and causes about 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year.
"Alcohol is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and it affects nearly every organ in the human body. Three major NCDs, namely cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, out of the four major NCDs are associated with alcohol consumption," Dr Shin said.
"In addition, alcohol is linked to more than 60 disease conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, hypertension, stroke and coronary heart disease. It may also exacerbate NCDs through increasing caloric intake, while reducing physical activity and quality of diet. Often alcohol consumption, poor diet and smoking cluster in vulnerable population groups," he added.
Dr Shin's remarks were echoed by the Director of Health, Dr P Y Lam, who pointed out the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has been according high priority to the prevention and control of NCDs.
Dr Lam said that in 2008, "Promoting Health in Hong Kong: A Strategic Framework for Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases" was launched, and a high-level Steering Committee with distinguished local experts in the field was set up to steer and oversee the implementation of the various recommendations published in the framework.
"Under the Steering Committee, the Working Group on Alcohol and Health reviewed scientific evidence, assessed the local situation and made recommendations on actions to reduce the alcohol-related harm in Hong Kong," he said.
A total of 17 actions were recommended for the Government and the community to implement for reducing alcohol-related harm. However, their implementation would never have been possible without the support from and the collaboration of international and local partners, Dr Lam added.
With experience sharing and discussion among local and overseas experts from different sectors, the four-day meeting provided the participants with a forum to review the health, social and economic burdens of NCDs, particularly from alcohol-related harm, in different countries within the Western Pacific region.
The event achieved the following objectives:
* To review the current country programmes on NCD control and reducing alcohol-related harm, and the health, social and economic evidence of the burden of alcohol;
* To discuss the evidence-based interventions for strengthening alcohol control in the context of NCD risk factors; and
* To identify country-specific steps to strengthen measures in reducing alcohol-related harm and strengthening linkages with NCD risk factor interventions.
In his closing remarks, Dr Lam said, "Based on the global and regional strategies on alcohol prevention and control, we have shared experience in translating the strategies into actions and programmes that have been developed by different countries to target their local need, particular context, culture and various vulnerable groups."
To conclude, he encouraged all the participants from member states to take home their experience from the meeting and to develop their unique domestic action plans to reduce alcohol-related harm.