New SHAAP Director, Elinor Jayne
By Elinor Jayne, Director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP).
In her first week in the job, SHAAP's new Director reflects on the interesting yet challenging times ahead as SHAAP continues its work in tackling Scotland's alcohol problem, and supporting recovery.
I’ve joined SHAAP at an exciting time. There’s lots of change going on, with new MSPs and Government Ministers, some new political priorities, a generally new SHAAP staff team, a relatively new SHAAP Steering Group Chair (thank you for being so supportive as I find my feet, Dr Alastair MacGilchrist!), and as my first week draws to a close, it’s pretty apparent the world of alcohol policy is a busy one. I’m also delighted to be joining an organisation with such a strong reputation, in no small part because of SHAAP’s lynchpin role in making the case for Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) which has firmly placed Scotland centre-stage in Europe and beyond as a country that takes its problem with alcohol seriously. And as we well know, Scotland certainly does have an alcohol problem. In 2019, the volume of alcohol sold in Scotland meant it was enough for every adult in Scotland to exceed the low risk drinking guideline (14 units per week) by 36%. That is pretty scary. And it’s not just people who are harmful drinkers who are affected: we all pay the price in different ways, from the 51,000 children who are thought to live with a parent whose drinking is problematic, through to the people left behind by the 20 people in Scotland whose death has been wholly caused by alcohol each week (a number that does not include deaths where alcohol has contributed, such as suicide, road accidents and a wide range of diseases including several cancers). And that’s not even considering the financial impact of problem drinking to Scotland, from absenteeism through to greater use of health services. One example of the cost to the health service can be found in the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS)’s brand new blog on ambulance call-outs in Scotland – worth a read.
SHAAP has clear priorities regarding taking forward population-level policy interventions that will reduce alcohol harm in Scotland, and to work with partners nationally and internationally to promote strong, evidence-based policies that make a difference. We’ll be raising awareness of links between alcohol and cancer amongst policy makers, clinicians and the public (there are massive strides to be made here), kick off new work on tackling the stigma around alcohol problems (massive kudos to Dan Carden MP who spoke about his own addiction in such a public way recently), build on our exciting sponsorship package with the Scottish Women’s Football National Performance League to promote healthy lifestyles, and in a new area for us, work with partners to improve access to much-needed treatment and recovery services.
As I read through the vast number of reports and stories relating to alcohol and alcohol-related harm this week, it’s clear to me that we at SHAAP are going to have to maintain a clear focus on the areas that will make the most difference. And for me personally, it’s really important that the health inequalities associated with alcohol are addressed. It’s simply unacceptable that if you live in one of Scotland’s most deprived areas you are six times more likely to have an alcohol-related death than someone living in one of our most affluent areas.
All SHAAP Blogposts are published with the permission of the author.