Management of substance abuse

Global momentum needed for increased action to reduce harmful use of alcohol

Five years have passed since the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol was endorsed by the Sixty-third World Health Assembly in May 2010. To take stock of progress made to date and to discuss ways to further strengthen the implementation of the global strategy, WHO co-sponsored the Global Alcohol Policy Conference 2015 and also organized the second face-to-face meeting of the Coordinating Council in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 5–9 October 2015.

WHO/Dag Rekve


Under the theme “Momentum for change: research and advocacy reducing alcohol harm”, more than 400 government officials, health researchers and campaigners from across the world attended the biennial conference, which included vivid presentations and discussions about how to best implement effective alcohol policies, barriers to implementation, the need to build support for protecting children’s right to grow up free from alcohol marketing, as well as how to build and sustain a strong global network to reduce alcohol-related harm.

The conference participants strongly supported WHO’s global strategies on alcohol and noncommunicable diseases and urged governments to focus on effective implementation and enforcement of proven strategies for reducing drink-driving, and on the most effective and cost-effective actions. These include the three “best buys”: increasing the price of alcohol, reducing its physical availability and restricting its marketing.

The theme “Momentum for change” was also very present during the meeting of the coordinating council. While governments may have a strong desire to implement the global strategy at national level, many of them face challenges posed by competing priorities, aggressive marketing and lobbying activities by the alcohol industry as well as trade treaties and other supranational agreements that block governments’ power to choose the best alcohol policies for their countries.