The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) released a report called “Alcohol Use and Harms in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties” on February 6. The report blends local data on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms with personal stories collected from the “Alcohol Use in Our Community” survey the HNHU conducted in 2016.
Alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in Canada, including in Haldimand and Norfolk where 84% of adult residents drink. Canadians have a complex relationship with alcohol. While alcohol is commonly associated with pleasurable social events and celebrations, problematic alcohol use is one of the largest contributors to death, disease and disability in high income countries, like Canada. Alcohol has also become more widely available and increasingly accessible, which will increase consumption and harms.
The report will be used as a starting point for discussing alcohol use and alcohol-related harms in Haldimand and Norfolk.
“These harms aren’t just personal issues for those who drink,” said Lina Hassen, health promoter at the HNHU. “The harms are an issue that affects the entire community.”
The HNHU based some of the report on the information they received from the 2016 online survey “Alcohol Use in our Community”, where concerns and personal impact stories were shared. The top concerns were: impaired driving, binge drinking, violence and underage drinking. Also included were stories of family disruption, violence and addiction.
“A key issue with alcohol consumption is that many people underestimate the amount of alcohol they drink,“ said Hassen. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey (2013/2014), 47% of Haldimand and Norfolk residents reported exceeding either recommendation in Canada’s Low- Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
The guidelines recommend no more than 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days. No more than 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days.
Heavy drinking (frequent binge drinking) is also on the rise among adults. “Excessive alcohol consumption puts people at increased risk of preventable chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease, as well as increased risk of injury,” said Hassen. “These contribute to increased costs in the health care system and to the local municipalities due to the cost of police and EMS.”
With the release of this report, the HNHU will continue to partner with local agencies and organizations to ensure that alcohol misuse and related harms are being addressed on a community level.
“Together with our partners we will work to develop and advocate for plans and policies that are known to decrease the negative impacts of alcohol misuse,” said Hassen. “Substance misuse is an important public health issue in this community.”
The HNHU is asking those interested in participating in a community alcohol stakeholder group to contact Lina Hassen at 519-426-6170 Ext. 3315.
To read the report, visit hnhu.org.