The Big Drink Debate Summit by etssetcf


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									A Summary Report
           The Big Drink Debate Summit Summary
Leaders from across the North West who came together for The Big Drink
Debate Summit have pledged to act to change the region’s
harmful drinking culture.

The gathering in Manchester on 27 November 2008 heard
the key findings of The Big Drink Debate, the biggest ever
survey on alcohol in the North West. It was Our Life and
the Department of Health’s first initiative to tackle health
issues in the region and provoked a staggering 30,000
responses with some very clear messages.

Key Findings from The Big Drink Debate included:
•   Four out of five - 80% of survey respondents thought low prices and
    discounts increase the amount people drink.
•   75% believed that large measures increase drinking
•   68% thought that street drinking encourages greater intake
•   Over half cited advertising and extended drinking hours as factors
•   More than a quarter – over 28% of people drink at hazardous or harmful
    levels. This is 1.3 million people in the region.

The Need for Change
Outlining the aims of the summit Regional Director
of Public Health Dr Ruth Hussey said there were
three strong arguments to change the drinking

The economic case was overwhelming because of
the cost of tackling alcohol related illnesses and
days lost at work. There was a compelling moral
argument – “children are not born binge drinkers”.

There is a clear argument for action because the
population had indicated through The Big Drink
Debate and other channels that action is needed to
address alcohol issues in their areas, such as them
feeling they need to avoid their town centre at

Dr Hussey called the Our Life partnership “a coalition for change” and she
urged those present at the Summit to sign a pledge for action and to make it
personal in their organisations.
The North West Story
The scale of the problems caused by alcohol in the
region was graphically described by Professor
Mark Bellis, Director of the Centre for Public Health
at Liverpool John Moores University.

Hospital admissions in the region related to alcohol
are the highest in the country. Every day 250
people are admitted and 10 people die.

Excessive alcohol consumption significantly
increases the incidence of diseases including
cancers and heart conditions and a wide range of
other risks such as fire injuries and self-harm.
Cheap alcohol consumption is linked to a greater
level of harm.

It also is a major factor in other societal problems such as crime, including
domestic violence and child abuse, road traffic accidents and issues such as
the number of incapacity benefit claimants. The number of days lost to
industry in the region is nearly twice the national average.

Professor Bellis said that the levels of drinking have grown significantly. For
instance, units consumed by children aged 11 to 15 have doubled since 1990.

Ruthless sellers, he said, were increasing sales through targeted displays and
offers; alcohol displayed next to sweets and soft toys and “buy two get one
free offers”. Equally effective tactics needed to be used to convey the
alternatives to alcohol and the true costs of the problems it causes.

                        The Big Drink Debate findings
                        Dr Karen Tocque, Director of Science and Strategy
                        at Liverpool John Moores University Centre for Public
                        Health, told delegates at the Summit that the North
                        West’s Big Drink Debate was one of the biggest
                        debates of its kind to take place.

                        The response by over 30,000 people meant that the
                        results were statistically robust, and they built on the
                        regional findings of the wider national General
                        Household survey.

                        Dr Tocque highlighted the main findings of the survey,
including those mentioned earlier in this document. You can read about them
in the Big Drink Debate - Initial North West Level Findings Report on the Our
Life website
Government support for The Big Drink Debate
The problems caused by excessive drinking are “a critical issue for our region”
according to Minister for the North West Beverley Hughes.

                            Ms Hughes, MP for Stretford and Urmston, who is
                            also the Minister for Children, Young People and
                            Families, supported the Summit through a pre-
                            recorded video. She said that there was a real
                            need for a co-ordinated response, particularly to
                            protect young people, and the North West could
                            set an example for the rest of the country.

                            The Government’s “safe, sensible, social”
                            approach supported the aims of The Big Drink
                            Debate: “There is a real need to change our
                            region’s relationship with alcohol” said the Minister.
                            “However, at the same time we need to recognise
                            that most people do drink sensibly.”

Government support for future campaigns to tackle
the alcohol problem also came from Nick
Lawrence, Deputy Director and Head of Alcohol,
Drugs and Tobacco at the Department of Health.

The fact that the North West was the country’s
“capital” for alcohol-related hospital admissions,
and that the drinking trend was worsening,
demonstrated that effective action needs to be
taken urgently.

He said that while binge drinking was a
highly-visible issue it was the overall volume of
alcohol consumed that was the bigger problem for
people’s health. NHS staff had a key role to play by
being more willing to raise drinking issues with patients, and a reluctance to
do so was “one of the biggest brakes on making progress.”

A sign of Government helping in the region was a pilot programme in the
North West to target higher-risk drinkers. Direct mailings are being sent to
encourage people to think about their drinking and to cut down.
Drinking is “the new smoking”
Two of the key figureheads associated with The Big Drink Debate drove home
the message that the scale of the alcohol problem needs action on many

Brenda Fullard, Senior Public Health Specialist at Government Office North
West, and Dr Alison Giles, Director of Our Life, said that with 28% of adults
in the region drinking more than Government guidelines there was a strong
argument that alcohol is becoming “the new smoking” in terms of its challenge
to public health.

                                         According to Brenda Fullard while
                                         smoking rates have fallen considerably
                                         - to around 24% - drinking has
                                         increased as a major lifestyle risk
                                         factor. It now runs up a bill of around
                                         £400m a year for the NHS in the North

                                       Dr Giles emphasised the need for a
                                       change in our social norms. For
instance, many of us expect that drink will flow freely throughout a wedding
party. We buy greetings cards with humorous messages about being drunk.
Our drinking behaviour, and therefore our drinking culture, is influenced by our
environment and attitudes.

The Big Drink Debate had clearly highlighted that the
majority of people in the region want to see a shift
away from this culture. So what could be done? The
attitudinal change towards smoking in public places
and recent changes to the Climate Change Bill
seriously demonstrated that co-ordinating public
support can bring about significant changes in
business practices and public policy.

At a strategic level a three-pronged approach of
prevention, enforcement and intervention was
needed. “In practice, this had to translate into a
greater willingness for criminal justice, education, health and social services to
come together and work to reverse the tide,” said Ms Fullard.

Dr Giles told delegates that “we’re all in this together” and asked that they all
sign a declaration stating that:

“I pledge to prioritise action to change our harmful alcohol
culture across the North West on a personal and corporate
Delegates have their say
Summit Chairman Jim Hancock, former Political Editor of BBC North West
Tonight, led a lively debate and interactive voting session during which
delegates were able to contribute their views.

                                         Subjects covered included giving the
                                         police powers to challenge the
                                         promotion of cheap drink in
                                         off-licences as part of the licensing
                                         regime; the ineffectiveness of
                                         voluntary codes on sales and
                                         promotion; the shift to alcohol sales
                                         from pubs to other retailers; the
                                         reliance on licensed premises for
                                         town and city centre regeneration;
sales of cheap cider; and the pressures on police time to deal with
alcohol-related violence.

Delegates were given a range of potential actions which
might have the biggest impact on the drinking culture and
were asked to vote for two which they felt might have the
biggest impact.

The most votes went to:
•   reduce the availability of discounted and low price alcohol
•   campaign to raise public awareness of the harm caused (38%)
Making future campaigns effective
A rallying cry to delegates to take care with messages and methods to change
people’s behaviour came in the key-note speech from Steve Martin,
Managing Director of Influence at Work (UK).

                                        His presentation, “The Secrets of
                                        Persuasion”, highlighted experiences
                                        of reaching audiences during an
                                        unprecedented time of information
                                        overload. Years of research and study
                                        showed that there are six principles of
                                        persuasion: reciprocity; scarcity;
                                        authority; consistency; liking;

This meant, for instance, highlighting what people stand to lose rather than
what they might gain, and ensuring that they play an active part in the
commitment to change their behaviour.

Information needed to be delivered by “credible experts”, and emphasis
needed to be placed on “consensus action” – for instance, that most people
do drink sensibly.

He cited the example of a hotel chain which changed its signs asking guests
to re-use their towels rather than asking for fresh ones every day. The original
message was simply that by doing so
they could “help to save the

When the message stated “join your
fellow guests in helping to save the
environment” (and that 75% were
already doing so) recycling rates
increased dramatically.

“We follow similar others most,” said
Steve. For the North West the implications were to consider how much
people are influenced by others and to recognise that not everyone thinks or
behaves like you.
The Next Steps
To help strengthen work in the region to reduce alcohol harm, a new
Department of Health team in the Government Office North West has been

Regional Public Health Specialist, Brenda Fullard, said: “The team will be
working to change attitudes and behaviour in the North West, so that people
understand the dangers of drinking too much alcohol.

“A key part of the team’s work will be to provide advice, support and resources
to anyone working to reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions and crime
and disorder.

“There will also be a focus on the need to reduce the risk of harm to children
and young people as a result of theirs’ or others’ drinking.”

Our Life Director, Dr Alison Giles, told the audience that Our Life will provide
the mechanism to enable the co-ordination and collaboration needed to
achieve social change.

“Our Life will become a new Industrial and Provident Society in Spring 2009.

“It’s about encouraging and mobilising support to begin to change people’s
attitudes through the work of our movement. We want you to be part of it, as
individuals and as corporate entities.” she said.

“Our Life will be open to members of the public, the public and voluntary
sectors and any organisation whose business does not conflict with the aims
of improving health and well-being.

“Signing the pledge to take action after The Big Drink Debate will help to lay
the foundations on which to build in the future.”

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