Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Understanding Dangerous Consumptions: Moving Forward with a National Strategy for Research on Tobacco, Alcohol, Other Drugs and Gambling

Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Understanding Dangerous Consumptions: Moving Forward with a National Strategy for Research on Tobacco, Alcohol, Other Drugs and Gambling

Article excerpt

Abstract

Tobacco, alcohol, other drug use and gambling impact significantly on the well-being of New Zealanders, and research plays a critical role in formulating appropriate responses. The project reported on in this paper aimed to identify ways in which the general infrastructure and supports for applied research in this sector could be improved to enable increases in both the quantity and quality of outputs. An advisory group made up of key researchers, end users and other stakeholders contributed to the preparation of a discussion document reviewing the current scene and outlining issues and opportunities for the future. The document identified strong needs for development in the areas of overall coordination, funding processes, research workforce and communication/dissemination. Feedback on the document was then sought via submissions and key informant interviews. Responses informed the preparation of a strategy advisory document, which recommended a two-step process for improving the research infrastructure: (1) fostering greater interaction and integration across the sector by bringing together researchers and other stakeholders from each of the four sub-sectors to explore the viability of developing a common identity and collective purpose; (2) building on the relationships formed in the first step, including implementing of a range of infrastructure development projects targeting funding mechanisms, research workforce development and communication/dissemination. The document also signals the eventual need to form a national coordinating committee to provide ongoing support for infrastructural development, to advance sub-sector strategies and to advise and liaise with government agencies on sector development.

INTRODUCTION

Aotearoa New Zealand has significant health and social problems arising out of, and linked to, the widespread availability and use of tobacco, alcohol, other drugs and gambling. In a World Health Organisation (WHO)-sponsored project that aimed to identify the main contributors to the global burden of disease, of the 10 selected risk factors examined in developed countries, tobacco was identified as the highest risk factor, followed by high blood pressure, alcohol and, further down at eighth, illicit drug use (World Health Organisation 2002). The New Zealand Health Strategy (Ministry of Health 2000) clearly identifies minimising "harm caused by alcohol, illicit and other drug use to both individuals and the community" as one of its 13 key objectives, with another seven of these objectives having a strong relationship with alcohol and other drug use. Achieving a better understanding of the complex origins of these problems, and identifying and evaluating interventions to counter them that are appropriate to New Zealand conditions, requires a robust infrastructure for planning, undertaking and disseminating relevant, good-quality research in these areas.

Tobacco Consumption

In New Zealand, as in many other countries, a prime impetus for undertaking harm-reduction research on tobacco (otherwise known as tobacco control research) is the scale of the human costs attributable to cigarette smoking. About one in four New Zealanders regularly smoke tobacco, and tobacco is the nation's leading cause of preventable death (Ministry of Health 1999). Every year in New Zealand smoking results in an estimated 4,700 premature deaths (Ministry of Health 2002) and an estimated 347 deaths from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke (Woodward and Laugesen 2001). The annual cost of smoking to New Zealand society was estimated in 1997 as $22.5 billion (Easton 1997). The scale of death and disability attributable to tobacco has major implications for the quality of life for families and communities forced to deal with its consequences. A major concern is that despite large investments in change, rates of Maori smoking have remained twice those of non-Maori rates, with a worrying increase in younger smoking (Laugesen and Scragg 1999). …

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