There is an interesting story that happened in 2001. The Minister of Finance (Mathews Chikaonda)in his budget speech just announced that surtax on beer was reduced and this resulted in ereduced beer prices. Amongst gazzlers, Chikaonda was the best minister. Well his decision was a sucessful lobby by Carlsberg Brewery who said that they were to fire 700 people because of a poor economic climate. The only way to protect those jobs was through reduced taxes on beer.
The issue I raise now is the role of public health in sensitising our society about the dangers of alcohol and smoking. I think those mandated to lead us in public health have always given us a raw deal. The dangers of alchol and smoking are many but somehow we have turned a blind eye.
Most public health officials believe that their job is to tell people to wash hands before they eat something, wash hands after going to the toilet, or to encourage vaccinations. This is a good thing to do but I believe much has to be done to sensitise communities especially our young people on the dangers of alcohol.
I would want public health officials talk about complications to the liver and the brain that arise due to use of alcohol. I would want them to talk about how families break down due to alchol. I would want a public campaign about deaths from accident induced by alcohol. I would want them to talk about starving children in families due to alcohol expenses by the head of the family. I would want public health consider how people have lost their jobs due to alcohol. I would want public health highlight the dangers of alchol use to the mental ability to unborn children. That they talk something that a child born to alcholic mother is mentally challenged and may have lots of health problems than children born to non-drinking mothers. I would want our public health go falt out and highlight the dangers of smoking and how it leads into lung cancer. I would them talk about implications smoking and alchol has on people with conditions such as diabates and high blood pressure. These need be part of the menu besides the seasonal cholera song.
Similary, faith groups need to highlight the social consquences of alchol use in preaching. The practice with our religious leaders has been to threaten people with hell but this need be the point. Much as they are various doctrines and religions have different views, I would want faith leaders incorporate the social costs that alchol brings to the family. The love that is usually lost as children rarely see the father, inability to take care of the family as a result of money bing spent on entertaining beer friends. The chucrh should move in thos this one. Given techonlogioes like radio and telvision, it allows them to reach out to many a people that are not necessarily members of their flock.
So, all I can say is that we have a social and health problem in alcohol and smoking that is not being addressed as a public health issue. We must act as soon as we can and fight this!