Reflections on the 2nd European Alcohol Policy Conference

Bursa_2The 2nd European Alcohol Policy Conference was held in Bursa (Turkey) on 10-16th December 2014. IFMSA was represented officially by Skander Essafi, Director of our standing committee on public health (SCOPH).

The foundation and development of the Alcohol Policy Youth Network (APYN) has been followed by many IFMSA members since 2008, mainly via our standing committee on public health. It was time to strengthen our official partnership with the network, including our National Members Organizations, as APYN is aiming to go global and to have participants from the five regions.

The idea of the 2nd European Alcohol Youth conference was to bring together 150+ young people from across Europe and beyond to work together on the topic of alcohol, alcohol prevention and advocacy among youth. The conference aimed to raise interest and empower young people in their youth organisations about prevention of alcohol related harm and alcohol policy. It was a great exchange platform and it offered to IFMSA the opportunity to gain more insight on the Alcohol field or related.

There were delegates from several backgrounds (healthcare students, economics, law…). IFMSA being a member of APYN was present taking the lead as the biggest organization at the conference. 3 NMOs participated officially as independent members of the network (MMSA-Macedonia, AMSB-Bulgaria and LiMSA-Lithuania). Moreover, other IFMSA members joined the event (from Associa-Med Tunisia, TurkMSIC-Turkey, ANEMF-France, PorMSIC Portugal and NMSS-Nepal)

The conference was very diverse, from panels presented by Public Health experts in the field of alcohol, to workshops delivered by APYN Trainers and experts about several related-topics such as implementing alcohol effective policies, campaigning and research, using the WHO best buys. The main key message was to deliver a positive message ‘Less is Better!’ as a way to reduce Alcohol consumption in general and among youth. Other topics discussed were minimum pricing in markets, bearing in mind cultural understandings and mystery shopping as a matter of follow-up. Finally, the event provided the opportunity for members to present their own initiatives related to alcohol, public health or their organization functioning in general.

As a representative of the IFMSA, I had the honor to participate in drafting the Bursa Youth Paper, which was presented in the final day. Following the Bled youth Paper from the first conference, this document was reiterating the major points that are still on the Alcohol-health agenda and added points proposed from the Drafting Committee and collecting participants input. This was a great opportunity to use the Policy Statement on Hazardous and Harmful Use of Alcohol  that was re-adopted in Taiwan, China AM2014 as a tool to measure the impact of our activities in this field. I also attended presentations during the opening and closing plenary made by stunning speakers mainly from several pioneering institutions such as UK institute of Alcohol Studies (Dr. Katherine Brown), New York Alcohol Policy Alliance ( MPH Robert Pezzolesi ), the Scottish health action on alcohol problems (Dr. Peter Rice) and the WHO Europe Drugs harmful use department (Dr. Lars Moller).

This conclusion was very fruitful and promising for future plans. We are therefore aiming to expand capacity building on Alcohol Policies and youth involvement starting by the Regional Level with a workshop during a 3-day workshop previous to the Europe Regional Meeting 2015. We would also like to push for more evidence-based interventions on alcohol and ensure collaboration with APYN in the future initiatives weather on research, education/capacity building or advocacy in the long term.

On a side note, and seeing how healthy the meeting has been, I had a reflection on our irresponsible behaviours during IFMSA meetings social programs and have started thinking about ways to reduce this issue in the long term.

Entry written by Skander Essafi, Director of the Standing Committee on Public Health

IFMSA and NMOs Representatives at the Closing Ceremony

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