In recent years, policy makers in the health arena have begun to discuss factors influencing health that lie outside of the traditional health care model. Increasing evidence points to the deleterious health effects of inadequate education, poor nutrition. excess fertility and behavioral factors such as substance abuse. Of these determinants, tobacco and alcohol consumption account for nearly 5 million deaths annually worldwide. As levels of GNP per capita rise, third world populations age, and noxious substances are more widely marketed and distributed in developing countries, the number of deaths can only be expected to increase.
As part of a broader work program on addictive substances, the purpose of this study was to review the range and the impact of alcohol-related problems and to initiate the debate on the appropriate role of government in reducing the morbidity and mortality attributable to the use of addictive substances. While the net impact of these problems is unknown, many countries have acknowledged the significant health, social, and economic costs they impose. Using evidence from developed and developing countries, the study discusses the nature of alcohol-related problems, reviews trends in production, consumption, and alcoholrelated mortality, as well as discussing the costs of alcohol-related problems. The study concludes by examining several policy options and the relative effectiveness of different interventions on alcohol-related mortality.
At a time when many countries are placing emphasis on the development of human capital, alcoholrelated problems are an obstacle to development. The paper shows that government policies which lower overall consumption, such as bans on advertising, drinking age laws, and increased alcohol taxes can have a significant impact on the number of alcohol-related deaths. By incorporating some of these policies into the portfolio of interventions available to policy makers in the health sector, developing countries can reduce the social and economic burden of alcohol-related problems.
Janet de Merode
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