The World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe produced the new European Framework for Action on Alcohol, 2022–2025 outlining most effective priority areas for policy-makers to take action to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.
There are six focus areas in the Framework:
- Actions to reduce alcohol affordability through higher taxation and pricing policies,
- Reducing alcohol availability,
- Restrict or ban alcohol marketing,
- Improve health information and labelling practices,
- Improve health services’ responses, and
- Support community action.
The Youth Health Organization (YHO) is a growing network supporting young people to actively participate in prevention programs, research, policy and leadership. YHO Vice President Sanja Šišović who is also the program Director at CAZAS, a national public health nongovernmental organization in Montenegro and Movendi International member organization, is inspired by the creation of an international movement of young health activists across the world, cooperating closely with WHO. However, she also demands increased participation of young people in policy making.
If we want effective policies, we need to include young people in shaping, implementing, and monitoring them, because young people are the fastest evolving community in the world,” said Sanja Šišović, program Director at CAZAS and Vice President of the Youth Health Organization, as per WHO.Sanja Šišović, program Director, CAZAS, and Vice President, Youth Health Organization
Ms Šišović highlights the need to fight against alcohol industry strategies, such as Big Alcohol’s aggressive ways in which the alcohol industry promotes its products. Even when effective alcohol policies are in place these must be implemented properly and prevention programs must be adequately funded at the same time.
The alcohol industry’s use of digital marketing to target young people is especially worrying, according to Ms Šišović. As a result of pervasive digital marketing young people grow up with entrenched alcohol norms and various myths and beliefs about consuming alcohol.
However, as Ms Šišović points out monitoring social media is not an easy task. This is why it is important to help young people to choose scientific and factual sources of information as well as help them understand the harms caused by alcohol companies.
In the WHO European region alcohol is causing a quarter of deaths among 20 to 24-year-olds, mostly due to injuries and violence.
However, the alcohol norm is changing and being replaced by healthier, more inclusive social norms, as young people are increasingly choosing to go alcohol-free.
I’m noticing that more and more young people are deciding to live healthily, to not drink alcohol, to exercise, to take care of their nutrition and to visit mental health services when needed. But I’m noticing as well that we are missing programmes which empower them to make these choices,” said Sanja Šišović, program Director at CAZAS and Vice President of the Youth Health Organization, as per WHO.Sanja Šišović, program Director, CAZAS, and Vice President, Youth Health Organization
Ms. Šišović points out that while young people may understand the harms caused by alcohol, they may not always have the skills to be resilient to peer pressure, to community pressure, to the media, to marketing, and even to family pressure to consume alcohol products. She believes it is important to involve young people in programs and policies created for youth.
When young people are on board, they have the power to change things, to be the positive example that is missing, to give the feedback that is missing. In many situations, we don’t have data to show us why something isn’t working, but young people will tell you first hand,” said Sanja Šišović, program Director at CAZAS and Vice President of the Youth Health Organization, as per WHO.Sanja Šišović, program Director at CAZAS and Vice President of the Youth Health Organization
According to Ms Šišović promoting meaningful youth participation in alcohol policy making also involves increasing awareness about how alcohol is an obstacle to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She highlights the far reaching negative impact of alcohol production including on the environment. She believes it is best to support positive young role models in communities than dictate to them. These young people need support to get access and contribute to alcohol policy making, funding for their campaigns, to be seen by media and promoted.