Evaluating the situation of alcohol overuse
at some localities
Alcohol use is a habit with a strong traditional cultural nature in many countries including Vietnam. Reasonable use of alcohol can bring a pleasant feeling of excitement. But alcohol is addictive, therefore the user may easily become dependent on it with an increasing level of intake, leading to the situation of alcohol overuse. Alcohol overuse often results in serious consequences for the community health and society.
In Vietnam, due to the process of renovation and economic development in the last years people's living standard has been improved. The tendency of using alcohol in daily life, during festive occasions and business relationships... is increasing. The widespread use of alcohol in some places have turned social security and traffic safety into alarming issues.
Having been authorised by the Project of health policy sector, Health strategy and policy institute, Ministry of Health, has conducted a research to evaluate the situation of alcohol overuse in Vietnam, then proposed some prioritised policies in order to gradually minimize the harmful effect of alcohol on each individual, family and the whole society.
Objective of the study:
To evaluate the situation of alcohol overuse in Vietnam as the evidence for policy development and propose some prioritised policies in the prevention of alcohol overuse.
Methods of study:
- Collection and analysis of available information in the country and the world.
- In-depth interview: 110 interviews with subject groups such as staff of central agencies, international organisations, local authorities, province committees and sectors...
- Group discussion: 84 discussions with subject groups such as representatives of commune authorities, people, alcoholics (according to standards of WHO) in 28 communes/wards of 14 districts in seven provinces/cities.
- Household survey:1188 households.
Comments and conclusion:
The situation of alcohol overuse and the preventive policies of some countries in the world:
- The production of alcohol all over the world tends to increase and move to the area of developing countries.
- The level of alcohol consumption differs significantly between developed and developing countries.
- The proportion of alcohol consumption in developed countries is over 70% for men and over 50% for women (above 15 years old).
- In most countries policies to limit harmful effects of alcohol have been issued, some of which are comprehensive policies about alcohol concerning both production and use.
The situation of alcohol overuse in Vietnam:
- The production and use of alcohol has been increasing in recent years. The level of alcohol consumption per person per year in Vietnam is lower than the average level of the world.
- The proportion of alcohol use (at least once a week) in the researched areas is 33,5%. This proportion for the male group is 64%, which is higher than the survey data about alcohol use in 12 developing countries (50%) and lower than the proportion of 84% for men in the Western Pacific area.
- The proportion of alcohol overuse (according to WHO standard) is 18%, and for beer overuse it is 5%. There is a significant difference among population groups, genders, levels of education and occupations.
- The main reason for alcohol overuse is the influence of friends and the individual state of excitement of the users.
- The average age to begin drinking is 24 and there is a significant difference among areas and regions. This age in Vietnam is older than the world's average, but nowadays it has a clear tendency to become younger.
- The average level of alcohol use is fairly high: 6,4 units per day and 26,1 units per week, which is far over the safety limit for alcohol use set by WHO.
- The majority of alcohol users drink hand-made alcohol: 95,7%. Among the beer drinkers 87,9% often drink factory beer, only more than 40% of which is beer of central factories, the rest is made locally.
- The place of alcohol use is mainly home and parties, drinking at restaurants and hotels accounts for over 11%.
- The time of alcohol use is mainly evening, but there is a significant proportion of alcohol use in the morning and afternoon.
The consequences of alcohol overuse and the factors leading to the increase in alcohol overuse
- Alcohol use results in economic expenses for the users, their families and the society.
- Alcohol use is the reason for hospital admission of a proportion of patients at province polyclinics. This proportion is increasing, especially in mountainous provinces.
- The number of traffic accidents caused by alcohol use is increasing and becoming a serious problem in many localities.
- Crimes and public order violations because of alcohol use are also increasing.
- The use of alcohol in our country is increasing due to the combination of many factors: customs, cultural standard, improved living standard, need of social communication, the increasing market of alcohol production and supply, expanding alcohol advertising and marketing activities...
Policies for the prevention of alcohol overuse in Vietnam
- In the last years the government and some localities have been implementing some policies to prevent alcohol overuse through strengthening the management of alcohol production, circulation and advertisement, applying special consumption tax for some kinds of alcohol and impact on the users. However, the policies are still sparse, insufficient and unsynchronous.
- The effect of the policies realisation is still insignificant. The reason is the lack of implementation mechanism and attention of authorities, lack of people's participation and capital investment, as well as necessary supervision.
- In our country there is not yet a comprehensive policy for the prevention of alcohol overuse. Some policies concerning the two main fields of production, circulation and consumption exist, but not sufficient and still contain unsuitable points. Therefore, many aspects of these two fields are still open without affecting policies.
Recommendations: Ministry of Health should develop and propose a national programme of alcohol overuse prevention: limiting alcohol production, circulation and use; mobilizing intersector participation, developing a network from central to local levels; investing in human resources, facilities and equipments; developing mechanism of inspection and supervision.
Some areas that need prioritised policies:
Policies concerning production and circulation:
- Controlling and managing the production and circulation of hand-made alcohol.
- Setting supervising regulations concerning alcohol ban at certain places and for children. Adding regulations concerning time to sell alcohol, limiting the number of alcohol businesses in the area...
- Banning advertisment, marketing, promotion, sponsoring activities for alcohol. Harmful effect of alcohol overuse should be stated on the labels of alcohol products. Images of alcohol consuming should not be broadcasted on mass media.
Policies concerning users:
- Limiting alcohol use for some high-risk groups: officials, businessmen, pregnant women, male farmers and fishermen, people of ethnic minorities.
- Adjusting regulations concerning alcohol concentration test in blood and breath of traffic participants to make them more flexible and feasible.
- Strengthening communication and education about harmful effect of alcohol overuse on mass media; mobilizing people to participate in the prevention of alcohol overuse with specific activities integrated into the criteria of 'cultural village', 'cultural agency'.
- Setting up a network of supervision and monitoring the situation of alcohol use and overuse in the community with the participation of village health workers and on that basis forming and maintaining activities of the network of consulting about prevention and minimizing harmful effects of alcohol overuse.
- Developing policies to assist and enable the victims of alcohol overuse to access health care services.