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Local Board of Health opposes province’s increased access to alcohol

The Hastings Prince Edward board of health is asking the provincial government to reconsider policies that increase access to alcohol.

“The evidence is clear,” states a letter to be sent to Premier Doug Ford. The board approved sending the letter at its meeting Wednesday in Belleville.

It shares information that confirms increasing access to alcohol increases consumption, which leads to increased rates of alcohol related harms.

“Increased access to alcohol results in increased harms,” the letter states, adding these harms are not limited to injury and death due to violence, self-harm, and impaired driving, but also include alcohol use disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and liver disease.

The board notes data shows increasing access to alcohol is likely to increase strain on the health care system.

The letter cites 44 per cent of residents ages 19 and older in the two counties exceed Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines and nearly 42 per cent were binge drinkers.

“We are particularly concerned about our vulnerable residents, including youth, individuals living on low income and those with substance use concerns,” the letter states, noting alcohol is the most used substance among those in Grades 7 to 12.

It also notes more privatization of alcohol sales in Alberta and British Columbia have been followed by significant increases in alcohol related traffic incidents, suicides, deaths and lower compliance with age of sale policies.

Europe has the highest alcohol consumption in the world, and the greatest rate of related death, illness and injury.

If the province chooses to continue the expansion of alcohol beverage sales, HPEPH hopes to provide advice and guidance to municipalities to help mitigate the negative health impacts of alcohol.

The province will be empowering municipalities to develop local policies that can assist in addressing alcohol-related harms, and HPEPH is committed to working with local governments tohelp reduce the burden on individual health and the health care system.

Meanwhile, the board awaits further updates on reductions and cuts to provincial funding.

“HPEPH is working with neighbouring public health units to ensure that the needs of our community will be met through the provincial reorganization of public health,” the board stated, noting needs of a rural populations differ greatly from the needs of a population in an urban centre.

“Eastern health units are advocating for a merger of Public Health Units with a rural/urban mix, demographics, population growth projection, and health concerns that are similar to that of Hastings and Prince Edward.

Public health representatives are working with municipal partners to develop a new regional model that will maintain existing relationships between local public health units and the communities they serve, while achieving provincial goals for public health restructuring.

The province has advised consultation will take place over the coming months to help inform final boundaries for new regional public health entities.

While a recent provincial announcement indicated that retroactive cuts for 2019 will no longer take place, the expectation remains that changes to the provincial/municipal funding formula will continue in 2020 and beyond.

Filed Under: Local News

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