News

Health unit seeks dialogue on alcohol

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

File photo

File photo

SIMCOE  - 

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit suspects the local area has a drinking problem.

In a report presented this week to the Haldimand-Norfolk Board of Health, HNHU offers recommendations for addressing some of the health issues at stake.

Alcohol is readily available in the two counties. According to the most recent survey, Haldimand and Norfolk have 20 licensed outlets and vendors for every 10,000 residents.

The provincial average is 17.4 per 10,000 population.

Haldimand has about 60 licensed venues while Norfolk has more than 110. These figures include wineries, breweries and distillers but exclude LCBOs and Brewers Retail outlets.

A 2014 survey suggests residents of Norfolk and Haldimand are also thirstier than the provincial average.

Ontario’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guideline says men should limit their intake to a maximum of 15 standard drinks a week with no more than three drinks a day.

The guideline for women is 10 standard drinks a week with no more than two drinks a day.

Four years ago, the Canadian Community Health Survey found that 47 per cent of Haldimand and Norfolk residents reported exceeding these guidelines on occasion. The Ontario average for the same survey was 42.6 per cent.

The health unit report is titled Alcohol Use and Harms in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties.

The purpose of the report is to lay out the issues regarding over-consumption, raise awareness, and suggest approaches for reducing the damage alcohol does to individuals, families and communities.

“These harms aren’t just personal issues for those who drink,” Lina Hassen, a health promoter at the local health unit, said Wednesday in a news release.

“The harms are an issue that affects the entire community.”

When it comes to alcohol consumption, the health unit is primarily concerned about impaired driving, binge drinking, violence and underage drinking. Family breakdown, addiction, organ damage and job loss also have an impact on community health.

The health unit notes that alcohol abuse has a significant impact on the province’s health-care system. Alcohol-related injuries alone cost Ontario an estimated $440 million a year.

The report adds that alcohol or drug abuse are involved in 23 per cent of motor-vehicle collisions, 25 per cent of murders, 14 per cent of suicides and seven per cent of falls.

In terms of advocacy, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit would like the province to adopt a comprehensive strategy related to alcohol consumption and its negative consequences. Health advocacy groups have called for a strategy in recent years but the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has not responded.

The local health unit suggests alcohol control is not a priority at the local level either. The report says there are only two liquor inspectors serving Norfolk, Haldimand and neighbouring municipalities in this part of Ontario.

Not only are these inspectors responsible for monitoring and investigating liquor violations, they are also responsible for lottery and gaming enforcement in their jurisdiction.

“The hope is that this report serves as a starting point of reflection, knowledge and discussion among members of the community, local service providers and decision makers and mobilizes collective action to reduce the harms associated with drinking alcohol in Haldimand and Norfolk communities,” the report concludes.

The report was tabled Tuesday at the Haldimand-Norfolk Board of Health. Because Norfolk has as larger population than Haldimand, Norfolk council serves as the board of health for the two counties.

The board received the report as information.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com