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Around one-quarter of injury deaths in New Zealand could be prevented if alcohol use was removed from the combination of factors causing these injuries, a University of Otago researcher told the 11th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion held in Wellington this week.
Head of Preventive and Social Medicine Professor Jennie Connor gave an invited State-of-the-Art address to the prestigious international conference, which attracted 1, 000 of the world’s leading injury researchers and practitioners. Professor Connor’s address focused on the effectiveness of healthy alcohol policy to reduce injury.
Professor Connor outlined the most effective strategies for reducing alcohol-attributable injuries in the population, based on a large body of international and New Zealand research.
These strategies involve adopting policies to regulate the commercial marketplace for alcohol, by increasing alcohol prices, reducing accessibility and eliminating commercial promotion. They are the key strategies of the Global Strategy for the Reduction in the Harmful Use of Alcohol ratified by the World Health Organization in 2010, but have not been included in the current Alcohol Reform Bill in New Zealand.
The effectiveness of a lower legal BAC limit for drivers in reducing road traffic injuries is also well established and included in the global strategy, Professor Connor said, and there is discussion in Australia and other jurisdictions of adopting a 0.02 limit for adult drivers. New Zealand still has a 0.08 limit and this is undoubtedly costing lives every year.
Emeritus Professor John Langley, the founder and former director of IPRU, was presented with a Special Award at the conference to recognise his long service to the Injury Prevention field. Professor Langley has been a strong advocate for better alcohol policy to reduce injury in New Zealand for many years, and was presented with his award by the Minister of Justice and ACC, Judith Collins.
The highly successful conference was co-chaired by the Director of the Injury Prevention Research Unit (IPRU) at Otago University, Professor Hank Weiss, who also gave a state-of-the-art address titled: Caution! Paradigm shift ahead: “Adolescent mobility health”.