The resolution means that the WHO will develop a global strategy as part of its battle against health problems such as smoking and obesity.
The WHO, in a press release summarizing the results of the assembly, recognized that work needed to be intensified to “curb the harmful use of alcohol” which is the fifth leading risk factor for death and disability in the world.
Sweden has pushed hard for the development of a global strategy and has received the backing of its Scandinavian neighbours in lobbying for the adoption of a ‘Swedish’ view on alcohol policy.
The resolution brought by Sweden and the other Nordic countries at the World Health Assembly in 2007 failed in the face of opposition from Cuba, a significant alcohol producer.
The resolution was this year presented by Rwanda with the support of several other African countries. Sweden had underlined its express support for the resolution.
Sweden’s public health minster, Maria Larsson, emphasised the importance of the alcohol issue to the WHO in several meetings and in her speech to the assembly.
“The so-called non-infectious diseases, such as injuries resulting from alcohol abuse, account for 60 percent of the world’s illnesses, according to WHO statistics. To work against the abuse of alcohol is an investment for better health in the whole world,” said Maria Larsson in a government press release.
“I am very happy that the WHO has now decided to work more intensively against the abuse of alcohol. The resolution that Sweden has worked with, and which has now been passed, becomes an important tool in this work.”
The WHO reports that work on the strategy will begin immediately and member states will be consulted during the drafting process over the coming two years. The resolution calls on the Director-General to consult with intergovernmental organizations, health professionals, nongovernmental organizations and economic operators on ways to contribute to reducing the harmful effects of alcohol.
Concrete measures can be expected to include a raft of recommendations for the marketing of alcohol, anti-drinking campaigns, licensing regulations and pricing.