Launch of Galway City strategy to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm

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Minister of State for Primary Care, Mr. Alex White TD, was in Jigsaw Galway on Monday (February 18) to launch the new Galway City Alcohol Strategy to Prevent and Reduce Alcohol-Related Harm.

Minister White commended Galway City “in taking a proactive, city-wide, approach to preventing and reducing alcohol-related harm.” He acknowledges that “the approach taken by Galway City complements and supports the work that is being progressed nationally, which includes regulating availability, restricting marketing practices and providing support for those affected by alcohol.”

Liam O Loughlin from the Galway Healthy Cities Forum, who took the lead in developing the strategy, explained that “we know alcohol contributes to a range of social and health problems, and to reduce alcohol-related harm we need to reduce overall alcohol consumption levels across the population. This approach is supported by international evidence”.

Mr. O Loughlin emphasised that “actions need to be community wide, and not just focus on heavy drinkers, youths or other specific groups. To achieve this, we set about engaging with the people of Galway City and relevant voluntary, community and statutory groups to develop a strategy based on the evidence.”

The interest and support, from the number and range of individuals, groups and organisations in the development of this strategy, is indicative of the strong desire to be proactive around an issue that is problematic across the country. The starting point is a five year strategy focusing on key areas of; prevention; supply, access and availability; screening, treatment and support services; and research, monitoring and evaluation.

The overall goals of the strategy are to strengthen support and action to address alcohol-related harm; ensure factors influencing alcohol supply such as availability and marketing are regulated and controlled; advocate for a range of alcohol treatment and support services; and use evidence and research to inform decisions in preventing and reducing alcohol-related harm.

When asked about the alcohol strategy, John O’Donnell, Head Consultant in Emergency Medicine at University Hospital Galway welcomed the development as “alcohol has a huge impact on our Health Service, in particular the Emergency Department. In 2011, for Galway County alone, the estimated cost to the HSE, wholly attributable to alcohol, was over €4.5million. It should be noted that this figure is likely to be much greater as alcohol is a risk associated with many other diseases and injuries.”

Some of the actions that will be undertaken this year in Galway City include: raising public awareness of the health and social impacts of alcohol-related harm; organising workshops to develop substance use policies for workplaces and sports clubs; monitoring alcohol marketing practice in public places; reviewing the density of outlets selling alcohol; increasing the enforcement of laws relating to the sale of alcohol to and for under 18s; and communicating information on services available for those affected by alcohol.

According to Fiona Donovan Coordinator of Galway Healthy Cities Project, HSE West; “Supporting the actions within this strategy will be beneficial for the people of Galway City. Working together, we can help improve health and wellbeing, reduce harmful use of alcohol; increase access to support services for those affected by alcohol; and reduce incidents of alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour.”

As Mayor of the City of Galway, Cllr. Terry O ‘Flaherty, indicated her support, emphasising that “Galway is a great city to live in, and a great destination for business and tourism. Preventing and reducing alcohol-related harm will contribute to making Galway a safe and welcoming city.”