01.01.2012 NPA harnesses all resources for alcohol prevention

National Programme on Alcohol 2008–2012. The vision of the NPA 2008–2012 is: «Those who consume alcohol do so in such a way that it is not harmful to them or others». The seminal programme of Switzerland’s policy on alcohol has now been running for three years. Progress to date.

Pictures NPA harnesses all resources for alcohol prevention

TODO CHRISTIAN

About 80% of Switzerland’s population drink alcohol without incurring any problems. But for between 250,000 and 300,000 people alcohol is not a pleasurable but an addictive substance. Nowadays one fifth of 15 year olds regularly drink alcohol. Alcohol causes numerous health-related and social problems and economic costs amounting to billions. The National Programme on Alcohol 2008–2012 (NPA) – the first of its kind – aims to control excessive alcohol consumption and its consequences (see «Main NPA goals»). In the first two years of the Programme its basic principles were laid down and its organisation and content defined. Many projects were tackled and implemented. Below is a review of the NPA’s most important activities and the outlook for the future.

Networking and coordination
The NPA comprises some 30 different activities in ten areas of action which are implemented by the cantons under the aegis of different federal offices and national organisations. Coordination of the measures and partners is the responsibility of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), in cooperation with the Swiss Alcohol Board (SAB), the Swiss Commission for Problems Linked to Alcohol and the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Health Ministers (GDK). An important achievement of the first two years has been the successful networking of the government offices, organisations and specialist units involved, to which the KAP and KAP-plus conferences have contributed (KAP = cantonal action plans against alcohol). The KAP conferences are important platforms for the intercantonal exchange of ideas and experience and are used intensively. A high level of networking among all players is essential for ensuring the flow of information, exploitation of synergies and bundling of resources. All national organisations active in the alcohol prevention field had already been involved in the drawing-up process of the NPA in order to ensure a shared approach.

Focus on youth protection
A key goal of the NPA has been to protect young people from the harmful effects of early and/or excessive consumption of alcohol. And with good reason: every year, approximately 2000 adolescents are treated in hospital for alcohol poisoning, and 21% of 15 year olds drink beer at least once a week, while 40% have already been drunk at least once. A number of new prevention services to protect young people have been launched. The Swiss Addiction Information Foundation has drawn up new teaching material on the subject of alcohol for different educational levels, e.g. the teaching aid «Alcohol in the body» for high-school pupils. The SAJV (Swiss federation of youth associations) offers workshops for the heads of youth organisations at which they learn how self-reflection and a responsible way of dealing with alcohol can be promoted in young people. In addition, a manual has been issued for carrying out test purchases that determine whether age limits on the sale of alcohol are observed. Enforcement of youth protection laws continues to be a key concern of the NPA.

Funding procedure and research studies
An improved procedure for handling funding proposals from alcohol prevention projects was introduced at national level in 2010. A committee of experts examines the submissions and draws up funding recommendations. The new procedure enables resources to be used systematically, coherently and transparently at a national level, as intended by the NPA. A great deal of work is also being done in the research field. For instance, the new addiction monitoring system is continuously gathering data on the health status of the Swiss population and on the consumption of psychopharmaceuticals and their effects. Various research gaps have been filled, and study findings are now available on binge drinking, alcohol addiction, alcohol-related costs at the workplace, and alcohol in the elderly.

Looking ahead
The aim of all these activities is to ensure that interventions can be carried out in a targeted and efficient fashion. By the end of 2012 the focus will have shifted to other priorities. One of them is the national alcohol prevention campaign associated with the programme, which was launched in May 2011 with a Dialogue Week (www.ich-spreche-über-alkohol.ch). This new type of participative campaign is designed to encourage society to talk openly about alcohol. The second Dialogue Week is scheduled to be held in 2013, and the preparations are already underway. Another shift of focus will be on enhancing treatment services for people with alcohol-related problems and on improving the training of professionals on the use of the brief intervention. This involves implementing the QuaTheDA (quality, therapy, drugs, alcohol) quality standard. Also crucial for alcohol prevention is the complete revision of the Swiss Law on Alcohol, which will be the cornerstone of future policy on alcohol. The next step is for the Swiss Government to refer the bill to parliament, which will then vote on the final shape of the law. It will come into effect in 2014 at the earliest.
The goals of the NPA have lost none of their topicality or need for action. An application to the Swiss Government to prolong the programme until 2016 is envisaged. In the meantime, the activities will be pursued in the conviction that harnessing all available resources brings us a step closer to our goal of improving the health of the Swiss population.

Main NPA goals

1. To make society and the political and business communities aware of the particular susceptibility of children and adolescents to alcoholic beverages and to involve them in supporting appropriate measures to protect this group.
2. To reduce problematic alcohol consumption (binge drinking, chronic and inappropriate drinking).
3. To reduce the number of people dependent on alcohol.
4. To tangibly reduce the burden of the negative effects of drinking on family members and the immediate social environment.
5. To reduce the negative effects of alcohol consumption on public life and the economy.
6. To ensure that the public and private sector players in the area of alcohol coordinate their activities and contribute together to the successful implementation of the National Programme on Alcohol.
7. To ensure that the general public is aware of the negative impact of drinking alcohol and supports suitable measures to reduce drinking.

Links

Contact

Gabriela Scherer, Gabriela.Scherer@bag.admin.ch

Petra Baeriswyl, Petra.Baeriswyl@bag.admin.ch, joint heads of Alcohol Section

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