Doctors should take the lead on tackling alcohol misuse, both by counseling patients and by urging governments to take wider action, according to a group of international medical organizations.
We are calling on clinicians to be better advocates for evidence-based policies (to reduce harms caused by alcohol), which include price, marketing and availability, said Ian Gilmore, MD, of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital in Liverpool, England, and past president of the Royal College of Physicians of London.
Gilmore told MedPage Today in an email that the 15 physicians colleges including the American College of Physicians are making the statement now to coincide with a United Nations summit on non-communicable disease next week in New York.
The summit has shown a woeful lack of recognition of alcohol as one of the most important risk factors, Gilmore said.
And in general, according to the consensus statement online in The Lancet, there has been a lamentable lack of any global remedial action, although alcohol is the third leading risk factor in preventable and premature disease worldwide.
Gilmore said the Royal College of Physicians of London organized the statement and approached sister colleges with whom we often work together globally, ranging from others in the United Kingdom to those in Slovakia, Mexico, and Thailand, and they agreed to sign on.
The organizers did not approach the American and British medical associations, Gilmore said.
The medical groups argue that 76.3 million people around the world have alcohol misuse problems, with substantial morbidity, mortality, and social harm.
There is good evidence that policy changes could do something about that, they argue, but such changes would not be politically attractive.
There is, therefore, an urgent need to put pressure on governments to recognize, adopt, and scale up appropriate health policies, they argue.
Doctors are uniquely poised to make a difference: The voice of doctors is valued and trusted within societies, and therefore we call on all doctors to show effective leadership by holding ministries of health accountable for their lack of action in the face of such robust evidence, the colleges said.
By Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today