The WHO Global Alcohol Status Report (2018) shows that 8 of the 10 countries with the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world are located in the European Union (EU). WHO data show that cancer is one of the leading causes of deaths due to alcohol in the EU. Even small amounts of alcohol can negatively affect people’s health – for example, about half of all breast cancer cases due to alcohol in the EU are caused by low dose alcohol consumption.
This is why WHO, with support from the European Commission, is initiating the Evidence into Action Alcohol Project (EVID-ACTION). The new project will contribute to delivering on the objectives of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.
EVID-ACTION is a €10 million project that will work to increase awareness among the public and policy-makers of the links between alcohol and cancer.
EVID-Action will support evidence-based alcohol policy solutions to reduce cancer risks due to alcohol, and to develop and support the implementation of related training packages for countries.
The three specific objectives of EVID-ACTION are:
- Health warning labels for alcoholic beverages,
- Capacity-building, health literacy, public knowledge and advocacy, and
- Alcohol screening and brief interventions.
EVID-ACTION: a pathway to reduce health and economic harms due to alcohol in 30 countries
The EU has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world,” said Mr John F. Ryan, Acting Deputy Director-General for Health and Director of Public Health, Cancer and Health Security at the European Commission.
Not only can alcohol cause life-threatening diseases, it can also cause economic harms and exert financial pressures on the social and health-care systems of the EU countries, which are already stretched due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.”John F. Ryan, Acting Deputy Director-General, Health and Director of Public Health, Cancer and Health Security, European Commission.
The WHO–EU Evidence into Action Alcohol Project supports actions across the entire EU, as well as Iceland, Norway and Ukraine to promote health for all.
Alcohol is a Group 1 cancer-causing substance, in the same category as arsenic, asbestos and tobacco. Yet most people are unaware of the many risks that alcohol poses to their health,” explained Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
This project, generously supported by the EU, is set to address this by improving labelling and health literacy, and will help deliver on the goals of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, which aims to tackle cancer across the entire disease pathway – from prevention and early detection to diagnosis, treatment and quality of life for cancer patients.”Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe
Why alcohol policy action matters in the European region
Cancer is the leading cause of death due to alcohol in the EU, with a share of 29% in 2016. In the same year, nearly 80,000 people died of cancers caused by alcohol in the EU, and about 1.9 million years of life were lost due to premature mortality or disability.
Europe has the highest rates of alcohol consumption per person, the highest prevalence of heavy episodic alcohol use, and the lowest rates of alcohol abstention in the world. In high income countries alcohol use is the second fasted growing risk factor for the global disease burden.
- Out of 51 countries in the WHO European Region, only 16 reached the target of a 10% reduction of overall alcohol consumption between 2010-19. But 17 countries saw increases in alcohol use.
- Almost no progress was achieved since 2016 in the implementation of Best Buys alcohol policy solutions.
- Alcohol pricing policies remain the lowest priority in the region, even though they are the single most cost-effective measure.
- A recent landmark study found that introducing a minimum alcohol tax share of 15% for all alcoholic product types according to their alcohol content can prevent 132,906 deaths.
- Alcohol is the largest risk factor for disease burden in the group 25-49 years.
The products and practices of the alcohol industry are causing severe harm to people and communities across the European region.
But the alcohol industry deploys multiple strategies to undermine and derail public health oriented alcohol policy development and implementation – across Europe.
After the adoption of the WHO Europe Framework for Action on Alcohol, the launch of the EVID-ACTION project is another milestone in the effort to protect more Europeans from alcohol harm,” says Kristina Sperkova, International President of Movendi International.
As people and communities of Europe, we faced a lost decade for alcohol policy, with the failure of the European Commission to develop a new EU Alcohol Strategy and setbacks for the alcohol policy best buys in many of our countries.
We welcome EVID-ACTION as a clear commitment to accelerating action on alcohol and to make alcohol policy the priority it should be. The people have suffered long enough from the harm caused by alcohol companies.
Now, the three EVID-ACTION objectives hold potential to facilitate change. We encourage WHO Europe and member states to complement these with the important work on the alcohol taxation signature initiative and with the development of a technical guide to protect alcohol policy making from alcohol industry interference and conflicts of interest.
Alcohol policy is a catalyst for sustainable development, universal health coverage, and economic productivity in Europe. Movendi International is ready to support EVID-ACTION to save lives, prevent harm, and promote of human potential through alcohol policy solutions.”Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International