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Analysis Solutions for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases

Prioritising action on alcohol for health and development

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 06 December 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6162
  1. Dag Rekve, senior technical officer,1,
  2. Nicholas Banatvala, head of secretariat,2,
  3. Adam Karpati, senior vice president3,
  4. Dudley Tarlton, programme specialist,8,
  5. Lucinda Westerman, policy and campaigns manager,4,
  6. Kristina Sperkova, president5,
  7. Sally Casswell, chair6,
  8. Maik Duennbier, director of strategy and advocacy,5,
  9. Ariella Rojhani, director3,
  10. Øystein Bakke, secretary6,
  11. Maristela Monteiro, senior adviser,7,
  12. Natalia Linou, policy specialist8,
  13. Alexey Kulikov, external relations officer2,
  14. Vladimir B Poznyak, coordinator1
  1. 1Management of Substance Abuse, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, World Health Organization, Geneva
  3. 3Vital Strategies, New York, USA
  4. 4NCD Alliance, Geneva, Switzerland
  5. 5IOGT International, Stockholm, Sweden
  6. 6Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, Auckland, New Zealand
  7. 7Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC, USA
  8. 8United Nations Development Programme, New York, USA,
  1. Correspondence to: D Rekve rekved{at}

Despite the existence of cost effective interventions to reduce harmful use of alcohol, many countries are not giving it the attention it deserves, say Dag Rekve and colleagues

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs)—mainly cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and mental health conditions—are now the dominant cause of death and disabilities across the world, with alcohol use recognised as a leading risk factor.12 Alcohol use is also linked to violence, injuries, and infectious diseases,3 causing substantial economic losses and social harms, including harms to others.45 The health, social, and economic risks associated with alcohol consumption go beyond NCDs and justify greater public health and wider development action.3

Governments have made commitments to reduce the harmful use of alcohol through the World Health Organization global strategy on alcohol use, WHO and United Nations resolutions, and the 2030 sustainable development agenda.6789 Although governments have endorsed a set of proved, cost effective, and feasible interventions to tackle the harmful use of alcohol,10 progress in the formulation and implementation of national and local alcohol control measures has been uneven.310 Meeting global, regional, and national health and development goals will require greater global and national action to formulate effective policies that reduce the harmful use of alcohol, commitment to enhance and accelerate the implementation and monitoring of existing policies, and prevention of industry interference.3111213

Need for action on alcohol

Scientific consensus is growing that there is a robust public health case for policy makers to implement WHO’s recommended interventions to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.21415 WHO estimates that harmful use of alcohol contributed to three million deaths (5.3% of all deaths) in 2016, of which 1.7 million were from NCDs. Overall, harmful use of alcohol accounted for 5.1% of the …

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