Working to minimise alcohol-related harm

Mount Alexander Shire Alcohol Harm Prevention Project Working Group.

A Community Alcohol Profile undertaken by Mount Alexander Shire Council last year found that residents in the shire had a higher than average overall rate of alcohol consumption and a higher rate of single occasion risky drinking (53.3 per cent) compared to the Victorian average (41.8 per cent).

The profile also found that Mount Alexander Shire had a higher rate of alcohol-related deaths than the state and City of Greater Bendigo and a higher rate of alcohol-related family violence incidents than the state average.

The region also has a lower rate of treatment referrals than Victoria and all other neighbouring shires, which could be related to the lack of appropriate local services, or people requesting to be treated outside the shire.

Following on from the profile, the council will be launching an Alcohol Harm Prevention Project, to promote health and wellbeing, drinking in moderation and educate the community on alcohol-related harm and how to minimise it.

Council’s director of corporate and community services, Lisa Knight, said excessive alcohol consumption played a pivotal role in poor physical and mental health outcomes, and increased family violence and road trauma incidents.

“The findings in the Community Alcohol Profile are really eye-opening, and as a community, I know we all want a safe, inclusive and healthy place to live,” Ms Knight said.

The council has received further funding from VicHealth to implement health promotion actions, with the aim of reducing alcohol-related harm in the community.

A working group has been established, including representatives from the council, Dhelkaya Health, Victoria Police, Castlemaine Secondary College, The Bridge Hotel, Loddon Mallee Public Health Unit, and The Alcohol and Drug Foundation. The working group will be facilitated by the council’s community projects officer.

“The further funding we’ve received to implement our Alcohol Harm Prevention Project will mean some really positive changes in our community,” Ms Knight said.

“We’re not working to stamp out alcohol consumption, what we’re talking about is drinking in moderation and promoting good habits because we know that alcohol is detrimental to our physical and mental health and has been identified as the sixth leading cause of disease in Australia.”

Over the next 15 months, the working group will work together to deliver actions to reduce alcohol-related harm, update the council’s website with project updates, information and resources about alcohol-related harm prevention for the community.

The group will develop an awareness-raising program for parents and carers of young people about the impacts of alcohol on young people, encourage local sporting clubs to participate in the Good Sports Program to reduce harm from alcohol and identify suitable education programs for young people.

“This is an exciting project, and I’m looking forward to sharing updates with the community on how we’re reducing alcohol-related harm, and improving health and wellbeing across the shire,” Ms Knight said.

“There’ll be lots of opportunities for our community to learn about how to minimise the impacts of alcohol-related harm, and improve our overall health and wellbeing.”