What will it take to move from fighting disease to starting to trying to tackle the much simpler things that cause it?

Andrew Langford, Chief Executive at the British Liver Trust (updated link – thanks to reader Chloe Pearson, Consumer Healthlabs), writes in the Guardian about how “alcohol abuse has reached crisis point in Britain” as the House of Lords prepares to debate how to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

the death toll from alcohol misuse is the equivalent of a passenger filled jumbo jet crashing every 17 days. Furthermore, 80% of alcohol-related deaths are from liver disease, which is the fifth most common cause of death in England and is set to overtake stroke and coronary heart disease as a killer within the next 10 years… …The question is how do we arrest this worrying epidemic? The British Liver Trust and senior hepatologists argued last month that rather than futile one-off DIY detox programmes followed by a return to old habits, a sensible approach to reducing all future alcohol consumption is necessary in order to sustain a healthy liver. This was echoed by the House of Commons science and technology committee, which proposed that the government’s recommended limits should be reviewed and people should be advised to have at least ‘two drink-free days a week’… …The British Liver Trust is launching a new report, which argues that people with alcohol problems must be offered effective support and treatment to meet their individual needs, an “individual person-centred journey” as the government’s drug strategy would describe it. There has been much talk about recovery and abstinence-based approaches for those with alcohol dependence… …The core focus of alcohol policy debates should be on preventing liver disease. This means that GPs, nurses and other health professionals should screen for alcohol misuse more widely, to ensure that those drinking at harmful levels are identified and offered appropriate support, advice and treatment

I’m amazed everyone’s so focused on preventing disease when so little effort is being made to present joined up thinking that can help reduce consumption and prevent abuse of alcohol.

We’re familiar with similar deceptive efforts from campaigns by Breast Cancer charities promoting “pink” 4.2% beers or in media campaigns that are just poorly considered eg. this London Fire Brigade advert that endorses a high fat diet on the basis that it’s an effective means of avoiding house fires after going drinking (what’s so wrong with the idea of drinking a little less – so you don’t burn the house down – or cooking a healthy microwave meal?):

Next year I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see adverts using the same logic suggesting the public stay out later where they’ll be much safer…

Similarly the challenge of alcohol abuse will loom large so long as the public are being fed such mixed messages from the media. Only last week I was passing through a London borough that’s reporting difficulties affording the millions it spends on alcohol-related illnesses, injuries and crime when I noticed a sign stating that the manicured roundabouts were “sponsored” by an off license offering to “deliver a crate of beer”.

Peter Hendy, London’s transport chief, added to the poor message consistency the public get from government when last week he suggested London’s commuters go for a pint to avoid congested transport infrastructure during the London 2012 Olympic Games:

When last held in London (in 1948) the Olympics left a huge legacy to the health of society and the respect that is shown to patients around the world. Not least of which was the origin of the Paralympics Games (originally called the “International Wheelchair Games” and staged on the opening day) but also as it timed with the foundation of the worlds greatest public health service (the NHS).

64 years on and once again London gets it’s crack at this very expensive sporting spectacle and this time it’s not even being used to encourage people to try walking or riding a bike to work (thanks to the efforts of the London Mayor Ken Livingstone London even has available a supply of 6000 cycles for hire from 400 docking stations), spend an hour in the gym before heading home, etc.

About David Doherty

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