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REMARK: About the upcoming NordAN conference

It has been a while since we last met in person. We are, however, a network, and close communication is crucial to our cooperation. In order to accomplish this, our NordAN board began plans as soon as possible for the next NordAN conference, which will be a physical conference. We hope to meet in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 19-20. 

It has been quite the experience in recent years to keep an eye on Lithuania’s alcohol policy. After having the highest alcohol consumption rate in the world, Lithuania implemented new, strong policies that effectively reduced alcohol harm to a significant degree. Nonetheless, there was varied and robust opposition to this.

The NordAN conference in November will focus on three major barriers to evidence-based alcohol policies. I will briefly summarize them here.

  1. Alcohol industry. Obviously. Economic operators oppose any policy that could reduce their income and business, whether it’s in the global, European, or national arena. We will hear from one of the leading experts in this field, professor Mark Petticrew from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Compared with the public health sector, the industry has almost unlimited resources, which usually means their effort is top-notch and very effective.
  2. Political ideologies. In the end it all comes down to political will and decisions. Alcohol industry can act within the limits that are set by the political parties. Even if we could eliminate the industry’s influence, we would still be left with various political worldviews and ideologies that oppose restrictive alcohol policies. We are currently looking for a political scientist who could describe these different ideologies. We will also hear from Dr. Aurelijus Veryga, who helped to implement these major alcohol policy changes as former Health Minister of Lithuania.
  3. Bad data/science. Here it is again the industry, whose conflicts of interest are evident in different scientific research. We can think of the infamous NIH planned study on the benefits of moderate drinking that was finally shut down after the industry funding was revealed. There is an apparent attempt to influence the scientific evidence. However, there is another side to this as well. Numerous advocates have called attention to the challenges of comparing national per capita consumption figures. The challenge grows when the WHO runs these numbers through its methodology and publishes global and European comparisons. Professor Jürgen Rehm and former Eurocare Secretary-General Mariann Skar have been asked to comment on these issues.

Our primary goal is not simply to describe and identify these problems, but to discuss how best to solve them together. Your experiences are valuable, and we hope you decide to join us in Vilnius. 

Find more about the conference programme and register HERE.

Lauri Beekmann
Executive director, NordAN