In October 2016, 13 area residents took part in the fourth Talk Public Health: NWHU Online Discussion Panel.
During the panel, the participants learned about alcohol use in our region, the health and social harms and costs of alcohol misuse, and potential policy tools for addressing alcohol misuse. They took part in discussions, and made final recommendations about where the health unit should focus its energy with regards to alcohol policy.
The following topics were discussed:
- Municipal Alcohol Policies (MAPs)
- Alcohol at community events run by municipalities, or hosted on municipal property
- The availability of alcohol
- Marketing of alcohol to children and youth
Themes of the discussion are summarized below:Municipal Alcohol Policies (MAPs)
– Most panelists were not aware if their community had a Municipal Alcohol Policy (MAP) but agree that one should exist, it should be up to date and enforced properly, especially at events with children/families. Many panelists agree that MAPs are only a part of the solution. Additional strategies are needed to address teen drinking, binge drinking, etc.Community Events
– A number of panelists feel alcohol at community events is generally acceptable, as long as the guidelines/MAPs are followed. Panel members had mixed support for a ban on alcohol sales at events attended by children/families. Some feel it is up to community members and families to decide if they wish to attend an event where alcohol is served. There was also a division in opinion over the use of beer gardens to restrict alcohol use to a separate area.Availability of Alcohol
– Panelists had varying opinions of where alcohol should be available; some felt that sales in certain locations (i.e. grocery stores) would have less of an impact than other locations (i.e. movie theatres, coffee shops, online). Most panel members disagree with extended alcohol availability due to concerns of increased consumption, police calls, emergency room visits and underage drinking. There was also the feeling that if individuals want alcohol and were going to drink it anyways then changes in availability will have no impact.Marketing
– Panelists generally feel that the influence of peers and family has more impact on youth drinking than alcohol marketing, but agree that alcohol marketers are very clever. Many panelists think that sponsorships should be allowed; however, several agree that sponsorship should not be allowed for youth/children’s events/teams. Several panel members do not feel that municipalities should regulate sponsorships especially if funding for events/teams is limited.
The final recommendations poll indicated that panel participants feel the health unit should be working with municipalities to:
- Provide community education about Municipal Alcohol Policy and why it is important, and
- Educate the public on the harms of alcohol use through awareness and skill-building activities
Next steps for the Northwestern Health Unit
What can you do?
- Develop an alcohol report for the region outlining our work – and the work we will do with our partners – over the next four years to address alcohol misuse in our communities. This report will combine the feedback gathered from our panelists and the wider public and partners through the Alcohol in the Community online survey with evidence from the literature to build the plan.
- Work with Municipalities to update their Alcohol Policy where appropriate, and work to educate our communities on why MAPs are important.
- Continue to educate the public on harms associated with alcohol misuse and underage drinking.
with local groups and committees. Do One Thing! Ask your municipality to pass a policy that supports healthy, active environments and community spaces. We can help. One thing, many rewards. www.DoOneThing.ca
Want to join the next panel? Click here
to find out more.