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  • Lauri Beekmann

EHYT: Expanding alcohol sales would deepen the health and social services crisis

Pekka Puska EHYTin valtuuston puheenjohtaja
Pekka Puska

19.03.2024 - The health and social services sector is the backbone of the welfare society, significantly burdened by alcohol-related harm. Doctors and nurses who responded to a survey by EHYT ry, the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention, have estimated an increase in visits related to alcohol use. The substantial burden that alcohol places on the health and social services system should not be increased by allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages with more than 5.5% alcohol content in grocery stores, kiosks, and service stations. Seventy-eight percent of Finns consider the current alcohol sales times and locations to be sufficient.

Health and social services bear a heavy burden due to substance abuse harms "A functioning healthcare system is the backbone of the Finnish welfare society, and healthcare personnel have been under great strain in recent years due to the coronavirus crisis. In addition to clearing the backlog of care, there is a goal for health and social care to shift the focus from corrective, fragmented, and expensive services to preventive, early, and multidisciplinary services," reminds Pekka Puska, chairman of the EHYT council.

The situation has remained worrying for a long time. One-third of healthcare personnel surveyed by EHYT estimate that visits related to excessive alcohol use have increased and significantly burden the workers. These results are revealed in a survey conducted by Innolink and commissioned by EHYT. The survey was answered by 490 healthcare professionals working in emergency care, emergency services, and primary healthcare across Finland.

Alcohol use is increasingly the primary reason or at least a significant underlying reason for visits and treatments in healthcare. Respondents estimated that on average, the primary reason for every fifth (17%) patient's visit is excessive alcohol use, and for a quarter, it's a significant background or partial reason. In emergency care and emergency services, this is even more apparent: up to 44 percent estimate that visits related to alcohol use have increased. Alcohol-related harm does not only affect individuals but also causes concern and sorrow among their close ones.

Alcohol causes at least 46,000 hospital visits and 93,000 days of care due to alcohol-related diseases in Finland each year. Healthcare personnel estimate that visits or treatments due to alcohol are most common among those aged 50-65. One-third of the responding professionals feels that in this age group, alcohol is very often or quite often the reason for the visit. Alcohol also explains a significant part of the health disparities between different population groups. In addition to causing substantial costs, alcohol-related harm also leads to great human suffering.

"The structures of health and social care are still in a phase of change. It is now crucial to ensure that preventive substance abuse work structures and substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation, and housing paths are created for the well-being regions. The public economy still has a significant sustainability gap, meaning there is a long-term imbalance between public spending and revenue. Introducing stronger alcohol into grocery stores should not place additional burdens on the national economy and health," says Juha Mikkonen, Executive Director of EHYT.

Source: STT Info

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