By WALLACE KIALA
THE Health Department yesterday began initial consultations with various stakeholders from Government, the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to formulate a national alcohol policy to reduce excessive consumption and address harmful risks that occur.
The department’s social change and mental health services adviser, Dr Uma Ambi, said it was time PNG set up guidelines to ensure consumption was controlled and regulations determining alcohol sales were revised.
A sector-wide call was made to stakeholders including the Community Development and Higher Education departments, police, National Narcotics Bureau, Constitutional and Law Reform Commission, the media and NGOs.
“Due to the impacts of alcohol-related problems being inflicted upon all facets of life and the community, a multi-sectoral approach is needed to have such a guideline in place,” Dr Ambi said.
Although alcohol consumption itself is an individual’s choice, the increasing rate of abuse by women and school-aged children was alarming.
Dr Ambi said the second reason to have such a policy in place came about as a result of observations by the World Health Organisation Western Pacific region 2004 status report on alcohol.
Although no definite statistics were provided, the report summarised that harmful use of alcohol was one of the most significant risks to health globally, particularly in developing countries.
In addition, harmful use of alcohol is associated with more than 60 types of diseases and health conditions including mental disorders and suicides, several types of cancer and other non-communicable diseases such as cirrhosis.