On Thursday 15 November 2018, the CICA Alcohol Health Champions took a leading role at the launch of Greater Manchester’s The Big Alcohol Conversation. They shared the stage with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, Jon Rouse (Chief Officer of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership), Sarah Price (Executive Lead Population Health and Commissioning GMHSCP) and Honorary Professor Kate Ardern (Lead Director of Public Health for Greater Manchester for Alcohol and Drugs).
What is The Big Alcohol Conversation?
The Big Alcohol Conversation is designed to be the biggest ever dialogue about alcohol with the people of Greater Manchester (GM). It is being led by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership who are working to achieve significant improvement in the health and well-being of the region..
Who was involved in the launch?
Jon Rouse opened up the Big Alcohol Conversation and shared his own personal story about alcohol. He acknowledged, “we all have a story to tell”. He emphasised the need for honest and open conversations about alcohol and its impact on our communities.
The impact of alcohol on children
The impact of parental alcohol use on children’s lives is a major talking point within the Big Alcohol Conversation. Sarah Price spoke about alcohol’s hidden harm in families. She outlined that over 45,000 children are estimated to be living with parents or carers who binge drink and over 33,000 children live with parents or carers who are alcohol dependent.
Anna, an adoptive mother of a child with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), then shared her experience of the lack of awareness, under recognition, and lack of support that is available for children and families living with FASD. She demonstrated the impact of people power and local community lobbying for alcohol change. GM’s long-term aim is to eliminate new cases of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Communities having an impact on alcohol harm
Hon Prof Kate Ardern emphasised the case for citizen public health as part of the GM Big Alcohol Conversation. She introduced Communities in Charge of Alcohol (CICA) as a ‘social movement’ and not a programme or project.
One of the first ever Alcohol Health Champions from Salford then took to the stage to share his own story. James spoke about how he wanted to use his knowledge to give something back, using his own experience to help guide others. As a result of his own journey, he has re-established relationships with his four sons – a part of his life that he thought he would never regain.
Kate Ardern then invited three Alcohol Health Champions to join her on stage along with Liz Burns from the University of Salford CICA research team. The champions took one question each and spoke in turn about what motivated them to become an Alcohol Health Champion, what they have gained from being an Alcohol Health Champion and who can become an Alcohol Health Champion: “absolutely anyone who wants to can become a champion”.
The call for ‘a conversation’
Finally, the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham brought the event to a close by officially launching the Big Alcohol Conversation. The Big Alcohol Conversation will run until the end of February 2019. The aim of this three-month long campaign is to engage citizens of GM in conversations about the local scale and nature of alcohol harm and explore potential options to tackle it. The Mayor said, “I’m not here to lecture anyone. This cuts across all classes and speaks to everyone. This has to be a conversation. There are no easy answers but it’s an issue that needs to be talked about and understood”.
What will happen next?
Findings from surveys, interviews and focus groups will accumulate into the development of a Greater Manchester ‘Ambition for Alcohol’.
To find out more
To take part in Greater Manchester’s Big Alcohol Conversation or to find out more about the role of CICA, click here
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