5TH ANNUAL CARIBBEAN ALCOHOL REDUCTION DAY
Alcohol and COVID-19
The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) in partnership with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, continues it’s annual Caribbean Alcohol Reduction Day (CARD) webinar series. The HCC and partners have held an annual Caribbean Alcohol Reduction Day for the past four years, under the themes and titles: The Misuse of Alcohol (2016); Drink less, Reduce Cancer (2017); Youth: Let’s talk about alcohol (2018); and Women and Alcohol (2019).
The fifth webinar in the annual series took place on November 24th 2020. The objective of the fifth CARD webinar entitled “Alcohol and COVID-19” was to reflect on the alcohol consumption patterns over the course of the pandemic; the reciprocal impact of mental health under crisis conditions on alcohol consumption and related harms and comorbidities; government and alcohol industry action during the pandemic; and to discuss priority alcohol policy and programming, related mental health policy and programming and industry regulations moving forward as the pandemic continues.
This year’s theme is most topical and critical to examine because of the specific harms and comorbidities related to alcohol consumption during this public health crisis. The interconnected nature of alcohol consumption, mental health and NCDs during the COVID-19 pandemic requires close examination in order to best devise strategies to manage these harms and to regulate alcohol sales, promotion and consumption as we continue into the prolonged social and economic conditions of the pandemic. The webinar will highlight how alcohol use during the coronavirus pandemic is related to and impacted by poor mental health, government regulation and industry action. Through a roundtable format, a diverse panel of experts and advocates will share regional research on alcohol use patterns and associated risk and harms, linkages with mental health and the impact of government and industry action. Finally, policy strategies and recommendations will be discussed that are focused on reducing alcohol consumption and associated harms, mitigating poor mental health arising from pandemic conditions and regulating industry marketing activity.
The CARD webinars seek to target a number of stakeholder groups, including HCC CSO member organisations, regional policymakers and technical personnel across various ministries (including health, education, finance, trade etc.), health care providers, members of academia, national, regional and international partners, the general public including students and the private sector. The webinar series aims to build advocacy capacity for the promotion of initiatives and policies that support the control of alcohol consumption and the long-term health of all, particularly vulnerable persons, people living with NCDs, children and youth. The webinars will leverage the expertise of diverse stakeholders and partners including civil society actors, technical officers, academics, health care practitioners, and youth to bring awareness to the varied and complex dimensions of COVID-19, alcohol use and associated harms in the Caribbean in order to guide the multisectoral approach needed to pave the way forward.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised important questions and concerns in the Caribbean regarding alcohol use, availability and marketing and the accessibility of alcohol dependency support services and mental health support services in general. As the pandemic continues, feelings of stress, uncertainty and depression are likely to deepen as people are further isolated and continuing to deal with the socioeconomic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alcohol is often used to cope with difficult emotions, and alcohol consumption has been found to increase following natural disasters. Furthermore, the alcohol industry has taken advantage of the current crisis under the guise of corporate social responsibility through heavily publicised and branded donations of medical equipment including sanitizing solutions and relief supplies for vulnerable communities. Heavy alcohol marketing coupled with the current geopolitical crisis that is giving rise to poor mental health is likely to exacerbate what is already an urgent need for alcohol control in the Caribbean region. In the Americas, 54% of the population are drinkers and 40.5% of current drinkers are heavy episodic drinkers. There are 390,000 deaths attributable to alcohol per year. Further, there are associated risks and harms specifically relevant to the current pandemic. Alcohol consumption weakens the immune system making consumers more susceptible to getting coronavirus. Alcohol is a well-known risk factor NCDs and NCDs increase the risk of dying from COVID-19.
With the coronavirus pandemic likely to remain a relevant public health issue and continue to have a specific impact on mental health and wellbeing, policy and health promotion program decision makers must consider strategies to mitigate alcohol consumption and marketing and promote good mental health during and beyond the pandemic. This webinar serves to raise awareness about the unique challenge of alcohol misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic and to facilitate a discussion about best strategies to mitigate the urgent need for alcohol consumption control, industry regulation and mental health support.
KEY DISCUSSION TOPICS
Through a combination of presentations and discussion, panelists explored the following key themes:
- Alcohol consumption trends in the English-speaking Caribbean during the pandemic as revealed through the survey conducted by PAHO
- The impact of alcohol consumption on mental health (the reciprocal nature of mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic and its impact on alcohol consumption) including a closer look at young people, mental health and the pandemic.
- Actions of the regional alcohol industry during the pandemic and consequences and a discussion of industry-led initiatives to promote alcohol labeling as a strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
- Overview of the current WHO development of the action plan (2022-2030) for implementation of the Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol
- WHO SAFER Technical Package and policy priorities for the Caribbean
- Alcohol Use in the Americas and Results of Alcohol and COVID-19 Regional Survey – Dr. Maristela G. Monteiro, Senior Advisor on Alcohol and Substance Abuse at PAHO
- Alcohol & Covid 19 – Dr. John Dillett, Consultant Psychiatrist, BSc, MBBS, DM, MSc (Hons)
- Mental Health and Substance Use Among Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Safiya Clarke-Mendes, MPH, HCC Volunteer Researcher & Youth Advocate
- Alcohol Policies: the way forward – Dr. Maristela G. Monteiro, Senior Advisor on Alcohol and Substance Abuse at PAHO
Executive Director, HCC
Dr. Tamu Davidson
M.D., MPH (General Public Health)
Head – Chronic Disease and Injury Department Surveillance, Disease Prevention & Control DivisioN
Dr. Maristela G. Monteiro
Senior Advisor on Alcohol and Substance Abuse at PAHO
Professor Rohan Maharaj
Professor of Family Medicine of University of the West Indies, HCC Alcohol Policy Advisor
Dr. John Dillett
Consultant Psychiatrist, Mental Health Professional, The Bahamas
MPH, Volunteer Researcher, Youth Advocate
Format: The webinar will take the form of a series of brief presentations followed by a roundtable discussion and a question and answer session.
- Moderator – Sir Trevor Hassell HCC President
- Alcohol use and COVID-19 – Findings of a PAHO Survey – Dr. Maristela Monteiro, Senior Advisor on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, PAHO
- Clinical perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and alcohol consumption – Dr. John Dillett, Consultant Psychiatrist, Mental Health Professional, The Bahamas
- Mental health and substance use among youth during the COVID-19 pandemic – Ms. Safiya Clarke-Mendes, Recent MHP Graduate, HCC Volunteer Researcher, Youth Advocate
- COVID-19 and the Alcohol Industry – Helpful or Harmful? – Prof. Rohan Maharaj, HCC Alcohol Policy Advisor, Professor of Family Medicine of University of the West Indies
- Policy and programming recommendations – GAS & SAFER – Dr. Maristela Monteiro, Senior Advisor on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, PAHO
- Fit Break – Ms. Danielle Walwyn, Advocacy Officer, Healthy Caribbean Coalition
- Roundtable Disucssion/Question & Answer Session – Sir Trevor Hassell HCC President
- Closing – Sir Trevor Hassell HCC President
See the promotional flyer here.
CARD 2020 Infographics
The HCC and partners have held an annual Caribbean Alcohol Reduction Days (CARD) since 2016 you can find details of the other CARD days here.