EDMONTON – A provincial coalition of prominent health groups is encouraged by Premier Redford’s recent interest in strengthening Alberta’s impaired driving penalties to reduce drinking and driving related deaths in Alberta. “Taking action to implement drinking and driving counter measures, like those proven effective in BC, is a good first step for reducing death and disability from alcohol”, notes Ev Glasser of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and member of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP), “but is only one of many policy changes required to reshape drinking norms and ultimately reduce the burden of alcohol-related injury and disease in Alberta”.
In Alberta, drinking alcohol is considered socially acceptable and is widely used. In fact, over three-quarters of Albertans aged 15 and older report drinking alcohol 1 and per capita consumption in Alberta continues to be higher than the national average2. “Although most Albertans drink in moderation, Alberta drinkers, especially males, are more likely to report heavy, frequent drinking most other Canadians”1 comments Dr. Cameron Wild, Associate Dean of Research with the U of A School of Public Health, and supporter of the APCCP.
This kind of drinking is costing all Albertans. “Heavy alcohol use is a known risk factor for many preventable chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes and is a serious threat to our public health”3 says Ev Glasser. According to APCCP member Kathy Belton, Associate Director for the Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research (ACICR) alcohol use is also a significant factor in some of the most deadly injury incidents in Alberta including impaired driving, fatalities from ATV’s and snowmobiles, pedestrian fatalities4 , spousal abuse incidents5 and deaths resulting from house fires6 . In 2002, the total cost of alcohol misuse in Alberta was $1.6 billion as a result of lost productivity, health care and law enforcement costs7 .
Recognized as the third leading risk factor for premature death and disability3, governments around the world are taking notice of this social, health and economic hazard. The APCCP is hopeful that the recent posting of the Government of Alberta’s Alberta Alcohol Strategy, a plan to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm and the Premiers’ consideration of new drunk driving sanctions are indications the Government is serious about changing the culture of drinking in Alberta.
About the APCCP
The APCCP represents a broad range of practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and community organizations who have come together to coordinate efforts, generate evidence, and advocate for policy change to reduce chronic diseases in Alberta.
Health Promotion Manager, Heart and Stroke Foundation
Associate Director, Alberta Center for Injury Control and Research (ACICR)
For information on alcohol-related harm and strategies for addressing it in Alberta, please see the APCCP Issue Briefs titled “Alcohol-Related Harm in Alberta” and “Policy Approaches to Address Alcohol-related Harm in Alberta” on our website http://abpolicycoalitionforprevention.ca/our-focus/apccp-priorities/alcohol-misuse-ibs.html
Information on the Alberta Alcohol Strategy is available on the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) website http://aglc.ca/responsibleliquorservice/jointinitiatives.asp
- Health Canada. The Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (CADUMS). Ottawa, ON: Health Canada; 2010.
- Statistics Canada. The control and sale of alcoholic beverages in Canada: Fiscal year ending March 31, 2010. Ottawa, ONT: Statistics Canada; 2010.
- World Health Organization (WHO). Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2010.
- Alberta Transportation. Alberta Traffic Collision Statistics. In: Transportation A, editor. Edmonton: Government of Alberta; 2010.
- Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research (ACICR). Injury Examiner: Alcohol & Injury. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research (ACICR); 2009.
- Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Annual Review. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Justice; 2009.
- Rehm J, Baliunas D, Brochu S, Fischer B, Gnam W, Patra J, et al. The costs of substance abuse in Canada 2002: Highlights. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; 2006.