Defining guidelines to alleviate alcohol abuse
The statistics on alcohol consumption in Belize are alarming. There is concentrated usage among the youth population and even more startling, are the range of effects that the abuse of alcohol has on Belize. Today, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Drug Abuse Control Council and Pan-American Health Organization, brought stakeholders together from the private and public sectors to define guidelines to alleviate the ill-effects of alcohol on society. These guidelines are expected to play a central role in the formation of a National Alcohol Policy. News Five spoke with Dr. Maristela Monteiro, one of the main presenters at the workshop, who says that enforcement and introduction of new measures are urgently needed in Belize.
Dr. Maristela G. Monteiro, Senior Advisor, Alcohol & Substance Abuse, PAHO Washington
“The alcohol consumption in Belize is worrisome. It has typical patterns of consumption that is of high levels of drinking every time people drink, especially men; but women are close behind in how much they drink. So even though a good proportion of the population doesn’t drink at all, people who drink, drink in excess, particularly young people. So this co-related with a lot of injuries, violence and later on we will also see chronic diseases as well. So I think Belize has a long way to go to reduce alcohol problems.”
Maristela G. Monteiro
“When it comes to the policies that are currently in place, what is that you think that Belize needs to do interms of preventing Alcohol abuse or controlling it?”
Dr. Maristela G. Monteiro
“Well, the alcohol laws exist but are not being enforced. There is a need to review the status of the legislation in the country and move forward towards its proper enforcement, making the community, the population aware of the impact of alcohol and how each one can contribute to reducing that problem. That starts with parents not encouraging or initiating their kids into drinking before the law allows, which is eighteen years of age here.”
“What are some of the areas that need to be worked on?”
Dr. Maristela G. Monteiro
“Yeah, I think you can decrease the access to alcohol; it can be through increasing the prices and the taxes. It can be through reducing the hours that restaurant, bars and places can sell alcohol. It can be under controlling in the marketing and promotion of alcohol or establish a government agency that examines the advertising and control the industry practices. It can be a ban on happy hours or cheaper drinks or drink two for one or allow nightclubs one price to drink all night. These are all activities that increase and encourage heavy drinking. So these will help to change the norms around drinking in the country.”
Dr. Monteiro says that the way forward is a concerted effort by all stakeholders coupled with political will, if Belize wants to seriously address the issues of alcohol abuse.