01 Apr 2016
The UK Chief Medical Officers commissioned an expert group to consider whether previous alcohol guidelines should be updated. The group reviewed the scientific evidence about the levels and types of health harm that alcohol can cause, depending on how much and how often people drink. The Chief Medical Officers have accepted the advice from the expert group as the basis for their new guidelines across the UK. The purpose of the consultation was to determine if the recommendations, and the reasons behind them, are clear and easy to understand and to ensure the new guidelines are as practical and useful as possible.
Key points from IPH response
The Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) commends the work of
the UK Chief Medical Officers and the evidence review group in their
analysis and synthesis of the evidence.
IPH welcomes the development of the guidelines on a UK consensus
basis, as one component of informing the public about the risks
associated with their drinking behaviours.
In reducing long terms risks to health, IPH would recommend that
particular consideration is given to the unique situation in Northern
Ireland and that due cognisance is given to mental health issues and
alcohol dependency resulting from specific circumstances and the long
terms risks to health and potential harm to others.
IPH believes the guideline regular drinking and keeping health risks
within a low level is clear. It is important that the risk of developing
a range of illnesses for those who engage in episodes of heavy drinking
is also outlined in the guidelines.
IPH supports the recommendation for ‘drink-free’ days, but believes
this message should be more specific and targeted at particular
population sub-groups, for example, those who engage in binge drinking
sessions and those who regularly drink above guideline weekly amounts.
The advice on limiting health risks from any single occasion of
drinking is clear. However, more detail could be given on why some
groups of people are likely to be more affected by alcohol, for example
older adults and individual with mental health problems.
Interpretation and understanding of units of alcohol may be difficult
for some groups. It is important that the guidelines take account of
health literacy and potential inequalities in terms of different
understandings of alcohol units across different socio-economic groups.
- The guideline on drinking pregnancy is clear in outlining the risks of alcohol to pregnant women and emphasising that the best option is not to drink at all while pregnant.