GAP expresses disappointment at WHO head’s stance on participation

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The Global Alcohol Producers Group representing many of the leading global wine, spirits and beer producers, has expressed its disappointment at comments made in the British Medical Journal recently by the WHO’s Director General Dr Margaret Chan.

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24 April 2013

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In a letter to the Journal, she stated that she believed the alcohol industry “has no role in the formulation of alcohol policies, which must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests” and she expressed her support for groups such as the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance which has opposed industry participation in formulation of alcohol policies.

However GAP took a different view regarding Dr Chan’s stance on industry efforts to reduce alcohol misuse which were developed as a contribution to the WHO’s ‘Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol’.

The contents of the WHO’s 2010 strategy do seem to welcome participation by the industry. It states, “|Economic operators in alcohol production and trade are important players in their role as developers, producers, distributors, marketers and sellers of alcoholic beverages. They’re especially encouraged to consider effective ways to prevent and reduce harmful use of alcohol within their core roles mentioned above, including self-regulatory actions and initiatives. They could also contribute by making available data on sales and consumption of alcohol beverages.”

Dr Chan’s letter spurning industry participation arose from a previous BMJ article ‘Doctors and the alcohol industry: an unhealthy mix?’ where it was suggested that GAP supported the WHO’s global strategy and welcomed ‘the positive role it identifies for producers, distributors, marketers and sellers of beer, wine and spirits’.

GAP had emphasised that the WHO “… and Dr Chan personally” had encouraged industry to do more in this area.
But in her missive to the BMJ she responded “Not so” to claims that the industry is simply doing “what WHO asked for in the strategy”.

In response, GAP stated, “We agree that the development of national alcohol policies is the primary responsibility of national authorities. It is also our experience that many governments do not agree with WHO’s view that industry has no role in policy formulation as industry is often invited by governments to contribute its views and expertise to the policy development process.
“We welcome constructive debate on the most effective policy options to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and believe in the merit of including a range of stakeholders in such policy discussions. Groups such as GAPA who seek to exclude those with views different from their own do a disservice to the very serious work of addressing harmful drinking worldwide and we encourage them to adopt a more inclusive approach.”

The Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol document also contained the statement, “Appropriate consideration will be given to the commercial interests involved and their possible conflict with public health objectives”.

 

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