Academic journal article Alcohol Research: Current Reviews

The World Health Organization's Global Monitoring System on Alcohol and Health

Academic journal article Alcohol Research: Current Reviews

The World Health Organization's Global Monitoring System on Alcohol and Health

Article excerpt

With growing awareness of the impact of alcohol consumption on global health (Rehm et al. 2004; World Health Organization [WHO] 2002, 2009) the demand for global information on alcohol consumption and alcohol-attributable and alcohol-related harm as well as related policy responses has increased significantly. Public health problems attributable to harmful alcohol consumption have become the focus of several World Health Assembly resolutions, including one adopted in 2005 that requested the Director-General of the WHO "to strengthen global and regional information systems through further collection and analysis of data on alcohol consumption and its health and social consequences, providing technical support to Member States and promoting research where such data are not available" (WHO 2005). Monitoring and surveillance are crucial in setting objectives for national alcohol plans and in evaluating success (for more details see Rehm and Scafato 2011). In recognition of the increasing demand from WHO Member States for global health information, the WHO's 11th General Programme of Work called for monitoring health situations and assessing trends as one of six core functions for the period 2006-2015 (WHO 2006).

In 2010, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol (WHO 2010), which targeted the monitoring and surveillance of harmful alcohol consumption and alcohol-attributable harm as one of 10 areas for action. The Global Strategy also identified production and dissemination of knowledge as one of the key components for global action (WHO 2010).

Most recently, the Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) mandated the development of a global monitoring framework, including indicators, and a set of voluntary global targets for the prevention and control of NCDs. This mandate explicitly mentioned the harmful use of alcohol as one of the four common risk factors for NCDs along with tobacco use, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity (United Nations 2011). This work yielded a set of nine voluntary targets, including at least a 10 percent relative reduction in the harmful use of alcohol and a set of 25 indicators, including the following possible indicators for monitoring the harmful use of alcohol as appropriate, within the national context: (1) total (recorded and unrecorded) alcohol per capita consumption (among those ages 15 and older) within a calendar year in liters of pure alcohol; (2) age-standardized prevalence of heavy episodic drinking among adolescents and adults; and (3) alcohol-related morbidity and mortality among adolescents and adults (WHO 2012). Inclusion of the alcohol target and indicators in the global monitoring framework for NCDs and their risk factors will increase the demand for high-quality global data on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm and attention to the WHO monitoring activities in this area.

History of the WHO Global Monitoring System on Alcohol and Health

The WHO Program on Substance Abuse established the Global Alcohol Database in 1996, creating the world's largest single source of information on levels and patterns of alcohol consumption, its health consequences, and policy responses in WHO Member States. Prior to this, WHO monitoring of alcohol and health activities largely was focused on collecting countries' alcohol policy and prevention program data (Moser 1974, 1980, 1992). With the establishment of the Global Alcohol Database, the WHO Secretariat started to implement regular global questionnaire surveys on alcohol and health among the governmental officials of WHO Member States nominated to provide information to WHO in the areas of alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm, and policy responses. The data collection tools were developed by WHO staff in collaboration with external experts. …

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