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Please note: opinions in posts are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of HC Link or our funder.

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New Resource: Tools for supporting local action to reduce alcohol-related harms – Policy options and a resource inventory to support alcohol policy in Ontario

Submitted by Tamar Meyer, CAMH Resource Centre and Ben Rempel, Public Health Ontario

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Research evidence indicates that alcohol policies are effective measures in minimizing harms related to alcohol and can occur on both a large-scale (e.g. national/provincial policy) and a small-scale (e.g. municipal/community-based policy1) . Alcohol-related harms can often be seen at the local level - disorderly behaviour, public drunkenness, under-aged drinking, violence, addiction, criminal activity, and injuries. These harms directly affect our communities as they involve our neighbourhoods and roads, our sense of safety and wellbeing, our children, families and friends. Local problems are addressed by developing specific solutions to local alcohol issues and are best done in alignment with provincial and national alcohol policy initiatives.

Public Health Ontario and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Resource Centre have partnered on the development of a resource aimed at increasing awareness of and access to evidence-informed tools and resources regarding local/regional alcohol policy in Ontario. This resource also aligns with recommendations stemming from the Alcohol No Ordinary Commodity forum, specifically that: "Work can be done locally to build momentum towards an alcohol strategy: Initiatives include developing regional alcohol management strategies, creating and/or updating municipal alcohol policies, pressing for strong regulatory controls on alcohol, actively supporting alcohol-related health resolutions, and implementing proven interventions ..."2

Tools for supporting local action to reduce alcohol-related harms: Policy options and a resource inventory to support alcohol policy in Ontario consists of two tools which are intended to assist Healthy Communities Partnerships and public health stakeholders in the prevention of alcohol-related harms in their communities through increasing awareness of and the development of healthy public alcohol policies.

This resource contains a Policy options table based on the seven policy approaches identified by Babor et al.3, and is broken down into two levels. The first level identifies the evidence-informed local policy strategies that have been adapted primarily from the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia resource, Helping Municipal Governments Reduce Alcohol-Related Harms4 and Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity – Research and public policy, second edition5.

The second level identifies evidence-informed local actions that municipalities, communities and local stakeholders can take to reduce harms related to alcohol in their communities.

The second part of this resource is the Resource inventory which was developed as a companion to support the implementation of identified strategies and actions. Organized according to level of government involved in policy development, the inventory includes a summary of evidence-informed tools as well as examples of existing drug strategies, pertinent publications and other resources to help inform local stakeholders with the development and implementation of local alcohol policy.

We want to hear from you!

This first phase of the inventory is being launched as a working document and will continue to evolve over time. With your feedback, we will be able to ultimately offer a robust, evidence-informed compilation of tools and resources to support the development and implementation of local alcohol policies. In order to ensure that this resource is relevant at a local level, we welcome and invite your feedback regarding usability, gaps, success stories in developing and implementing local alcohol policy, along with additional tools and resources you are aware of. Specifically, we are interested in:

What other Ontario-specific policy-related tools or resources do you know of or have developed that can help communities/municipalities prevent or reduce harms related to alcohol?

What kinds of local alcohol policy activities and/or initiatives have you, your Public Health Unit, Healthy Communities Partnership, municipality/community been involved with?

To suggest a new tool or resource or for any questions or comments, please contact Tamar Meyer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Ben Rempel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



1Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2004). "Alcohol Policy Framework for Reducing Alcohol-Related Problems" Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto.

2Rempel, B. July 20, 2012. Alcohol Policy in Ontario: The importance of on-going dialogue and discussions. Ontario Health Promotion E-Bulletin. 

3Babor, T., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G., Giesbrecht, N., Graham, K., et al. (2010). Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity - Research and Public Policy. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

4Centre for Addictions Research of BC (2010). Helping Municipal Governments Reduce Alcohol-Related Harms. Accessed March 16, 2012.

5Babor, T., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G., Giesbrecht, N., Graham, K., et al. (2010). Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity - Research and Public Policy. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Brazil’s National School-based Drug Education Program

At the July 5 meeting of the Prevention Working Group of the Toronto Drug Strategy, Dr. Ines Gandolfo Concepcion, from the University of Brasilia, presented Curso de Prevenção do uso de Drogas, a national school-based drug education program.


The program was created by the National Anti-Drug Secretariat, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the University of Brasilia, in line with Brazil's National Policy on Drugs and "Crack Can be Conquered!" campaign. Brazil is currently experiencing a crack cocaine epidemic, likened to that of the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The policy includes the following under general guidelines for prevention:

"Preventive action must be planned and geared toward human development; education for healthy living; access to cultural assets, including sports, cultural, and leisure activities; dissemination of knowledge about drugs validated by scientific information; encouragement of youth leadership; and the role of family, school and community in replicating such activities."

The accredited distance-based learning course trains public school teachers on the prevention of drug use in public schools using a non-judgmental curriculum. The extensive training hopes to shift the negative attitudes and biases of public school teachers who traditionally use shock tactics when dealing with drug use. Rather than presenting basic drug information (as in the past), the text and video-based curriculum encourages students to become actively engaged in the learning process. The program insludes a final project which requires each school to implement a prevention-focused initiative in their community.Teachers have access to a virtual learning platform and tutors who provide guidance on all aspects of the program.

The program piloted in 2004, with an enrollment of 5000 teachers. Now in its fifth cycle, the program is steadily growing with an enrollment of 70 000 teachers in 2012. The program also recognizes and rewards those teachers and school with the best prevention initiatives. The program aims to educate 210 000 public school teachers (and 3 300 military police instructors) by 2014.

However, almost 20% of Brazilian youth either don't enroll in highschool or drop out before graduating. The program is currently investigating ways of reaching youth outside formal education.

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Summer Long Weekends

By Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy, Parent Action on Drugs

As the July long weekend approaches, our thoughts turn to an extra day off work, fun with family and friends, and celebrating Canada. Another common association with summer long weekends is the use of alcohol. It is hard to watch TV without seeing the joy of the "beer commercial lifestyle" where revellers are depicted having a great time, courtesy of a cooler full of beer. The message is clear: part of having the great cottage, the newest boat, and a houseful of friends is also having an abundance of alcohol. I am concerned that our culture seems to have embedded the use of alcohol with the celebrations of our summer long weekends. 


Police will typically increase their surveillance of the highways and increase RIDE checks during a long weekend, and hospitals tend to increase staffing for emergency rooms. It appears that those who deal with the consequences of excessive drinking know the other side of long weekend drinking. 

As adults we may have an understanding of the role that drugs and alcohol are playing in our lives, but do our actions send conflicting messages to youth? The baseball tournament where you over-indulge after the game and wake with a pounding headache, family gatherings where your uncle falls in the pool but manages to keep this drink above water, the T.G.I.F parties after work soaking up some sunshine with co-workers, the association of the May 'two-four' weekend... what culture are we creating?

Over the next several months, Parent Action on Drugs and HC Link will be hosting a series of webinars focused on youth and substance use.  For additional information and programming options on youth and substance use please access our website.


Related resources from the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse:

Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada: Towards a Culture of Moderation

- National Alcohol Strategy: Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada

Alcohol and Health in Canada: A Summary of Evidence and Guidelines for Low-Risk Drinking


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Webinar Recap: Health Promotion Programming for Older Adults: Mental Health, Gambling, Substance and Alcohol Misuse

By Tamar Meyer, CAMH Resource Centre

Older adults (55 years and older) often experience health inequities and for this reason, have been identified as a target population within the Healthy Communities Fund Grant Program. According to a recent Statistics Canada report1, seniors (identified by Statistics Canada as 65+) are the fastest-growing age group in Canada representing 14% of the overall Canadian population in 2009 and expected to grow to between 23-25% in 2036. Between 2015-2021, and for the first time in the history of the Canadian population, a dramatic shift is expected to occur where the number of people aged 65 years of age and over is expected to surpass the number of children (14 and under). This dramatic acceleration combined with the health inequities that older adults often experience make it imperative to apply a health promotion lens to this “silver tsunami”. 


On March 28th, the CAMH Resource Centre, in collaboration with HC Link, held a two-hour webinar called: “Health Promotion Programming for Older Adults: Mental Health, Gambling, Substance and Alcohol Misuse”.Carolynne Cooper, social worker with CAMH's Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario’s Counseling Services and Marianne Kobus-Matthews, Senior Health Promotion Consultant, provided an overview mental health promotion concepts, and gambling, substance and alcohol misuse prevention strategies and programming directed towards older adults. Webinar participants and facilitators discussed risk and protective factors impacting the health and well-being of older adults.  The importance of social and emotional support to reduce social isolation, financial security, and senior-friendly environments – that is environments that are accessible, provide a sense of community, recreational activities, and a variety of different health promoting and prevention services and supports – were identified by presenters and webinar participants as key protective factors to promote the health of older people. 

Louise Daw, Healthy Communities Consultant with the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC), also joined Marianne and Carolynne to share some information and resources highlighting the intersections between physical activity, and the mental health and older adults.  

To access the PowerPoint slides, click hereTo watch a recording of the webinar, click here.


Key documents:

Statistics Canada (2010) Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories: 2009-2036.  Minister of Industry: Ottawa.  Accessed March 29, 2012.
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