The meeting is chaired by Assoc.Prof. Nguyen Thi Kim Tien – Minister of Health; Ms Nguyen Thuy Anh, Chairwoman of the National Assembly Committee for Social Affairs; and Dr. Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Viet Nam. Participants in the meeting include representatives from National Assembly Committees, Government office, Minitries/Agencies, Associations, representatives of Development partners such as the UN, bilateral cooperation agencies, embassies and NGOs. The meetingalso highly welcomes the letter from Dr. Shin Young-soo, Regional Director of WHO Western Pacific Region calling for strong actions to tackle harmful use of alcohol for healthy Vietnamese people.

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The alcohol consumption of Vietnamese people is quite high compared with other countries in the Region. WHO estimated that the average Vietnamese person over 15 years old consumed 8.3 litres of pure alcohol in 2016 – the same level with Thailand. Other countries in the Region consumed much less on average – Mongolia 7.4 litres, China 7.2 litres, Cambodia 6.7 litres, the Philippines 6.6 litres and Singapore 2 litres. Alcohol consumption is also rapidly increasing. Among male drinkers, consumption has increased by 15% in 2015 compared with 2010. Alcohol use in Viet Nam resulted in an estimated 79 000 deaths in 2016. Hundreds of thousands of others required hospital treatment for diseases related to alcohol. Harmful use of alcohol is a major contributing factor to this NCD burden. Alcohol use is also a risk factor for road traffic accidents, violence and injuries.

“Harmful use of alcohol is taking away valuable resources for the pressing needs for health care and development in Viet Nam” saidDr. Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Viet Nam. He highlighted the severesocial and economic consequences of harmful use of alcohol. “The full social consequences of alcohol consumption in Viet Nam account for between 1.3% and 3.3% of the Gross Domestic Product”, the WHO Representative added

“Alcohol use in Viet Nam has placed severe consequences on the health of people and the community” said Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien. She emphasized the need to tackle the problem  of harmful use of alcohol, whichwill help reducing burden on the already stretched health system. “Thiswill also improve the health of current and future generations of Vietnamese people”, the Minister also said.

The WHO recommends implementing the following key effective measures for controlling harmful use of alcohol:

1. Pricing policy for alcoholic beverages: Evidence has shown that raising the price of alcohol is effective in reducing harmful use of alcohol among drinkers in general and among youth. Deaths associated with alcohol use also decline.

2. Restricting access to and availability of alcohol: This policy option could include regulating the density of alcohol outlets through a strict licensing mechanism; limiting the days and hours when alcohol sales are permitted; and minimum age requirements for the purchase or consumption of alcoholic beverages.

3. Regulating the marketing: Alcohol advertising particularly affects young people. Numerous studies have found that young people who are exposed to alcohol marketing are more likely to start drinking or drink more. Effective control or ban of alcohol advertising can reduce consumption, especially among youth, and resulting violence and road traffic crashes.

Investing in activities for the prevention of alcohol-related harms will reap significant benefits for society. According to a 2018 estimate from WHO, for every dollar spent on the implementation of best-buys for the prevention of harms due to use of alcohol, a return of 9.13 dollars will be gained.

WHO will continue to collaborate closely with the Ministry of Health and partners to provide technical support for development and implementation of policies to prevent harmful use of alcohol in Viet Nam.

Reported by Loan Tran-Hoang Bac