Mexico: First meeting of the Pan American Network on Alcohol and Public Health

PAHO/WHO, with the support of the Mexican government, organized the first meeting of the Pan American Network on Alcohol and Public Health (PANNAPH), which comprises all alcohol focal points appointed by the ministers of health in each country. Thirty countries attended the meeting, several focal points, mental health counselors, three collaborating centers working in the area of ​​alcohol, six NGOs, as well as national and international experts, such as Vladimir Poznyak, Coordinator of the Substance Abuse Unit at WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

The three main objectives of the meeting were:

  1. To give an update on ongoing global and regional processes, such as the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol, adopted in 2010 by WHO, and the Plan of Action to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol in the Americas, approved by PAHO in 2011; and to discuss the role of collaborating centers, NGOs and civil society, and the contribution of other actors;
  2. To present scientific evidence on which to base the policies agreed on in the global strategy and regional action plan. Discuss how they have been implemented by the countries of the Americas and the barriers encountered; and
  3. To discuss and agree on priority areas for PAHO and WHO’s technical cooperation, according to each country’s needs.

Several recommendations for action in the next 12-24 months were agreed upon in the meeting. They will be included in a document called "Recommendations of Mexico" for their dissemination. Hitherto chaired by Mexico, the Network will now be led by Brazil, with Belize as co-president.

There were several issues that generated a rich discussion during the meeting, such as the study of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences -FLACSO- (conducted in nine countries of the Region and sponsored by the beer industry), with great concern for its influence in those countries and for the lack of information on its details (methodological and ethical problems); conflicts of interest regarding the collaboration of industry, which raises the need to develop clear principles on when, how and why interact; the Network’s support to the Brazilian Government for a ban on the sale of alcohol in stadiums during the next Soccer World Cup (according to the national legislation in-force); and the need to regulate alcohol advertising and sponsoring, proposing the development of universal parameters for independent regulation of marketing, since self-regulation does not work and continues to be systematically violated in all countries.