WHO calls for strong actions to tackle harmful use of alcohol

Under the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) country office in Vietnam, the Ministry of Health July 18 organized the Health Partnership Group (HPG) Consultation meeting on the Draft law for prevention and control of alcohol related harms.

Vietnamese Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien at the meeting (Photo: Courtesy of WHO)
Vietnamese Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien at the meeting (Photo: Courtesy of WHO)

The alcohol consumption of Vietnamese people is quite high compared with other countries in the region. WHO estimated that the average Vietnamese person over 15 years old consumed 8.3 liters of pure alcohol in 2016 – the same level with Thailand. Other countries in the region consumed much less on average – Mongolia 7.4 liters, China 7.2 liters, Cambodia 6.7 liters, the Philippines 6.6 liters and Singapore 2 liters.

Alcohol consumption is also rapidly increasing. Among male drinkers, consumption has increased by 15 percent in 2015 compared with 2010. Alcohol use in Vietnam resulted in an estimated 79 000 deaths in 2016.

Hundreds of thousands of others required hospital treatment for diseases related to alcohol. Harmful use of alcohol is a major contributing factor to this NCD burden. Alcohol use is also a risk factor for road traffic accidents, violence and injuries.

“Harmful use of alcohol is taking away valuable resources for the pressing needs for health care and development in Vietnam” said Dr. Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Vietnam. He highlighted the severe social and economic consequences of harmful use of alcohol. “The full social consequences of alcohol consumption in Vietnam account for between 1.3 percent and 3.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product”, the WHO Representative added

“Alcohol use in Vietnam has placed severe consequences on the health of people and the community” said Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien. She emphasized the need to tackle the problem of harmful use of alcohol, which will help reducing burden on the already stretched health system. “This will also improve the health of current and future generations of Vietnamese people”, the Minister also said.

The WHO recommends implementing the following key effective measures for controlling harmful use of alcohol including pricing policy for alcoholic beverages, restricting access to and availability of alcohol, regulating the marketing since alcohol advertising particularly affects young people.

Investing in activities for the prevention of alcohol-related harms will reap significant benefits for society. According to a 2018 estimate from WHO, for every dollar spent on the implementation of best-buys for the prevention of harms due to use of alcohol, a return of 9.13 dollars will be gained.

WHO will continue to collaborate closely with the Ministry of Health and partners to provide technical support for development and implementation of policies to prevent harmful use of alcohol in Vietnam.

The meeting was chaired by Assoc.Prof. Nguyen Thi Kim Tien – Minister of Health; Mme Nguyen Thuy Anh, Chairwoman of the National Assembly Committee for Social Affairs and Dr. Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Vietnam.