This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, a campaign run by Alcohol Concern to get people thinking about alcohol – how it affects us as individuals, families, communities and society as a whole.
Here in Birmingham, around 18% of the city’s population are drinking at a level which increases the risk of damaging their health, and alcohol-related healthcare costs in Birmingham are an estimated £55m a year, equating to £65 per adult. (Source: Alcohol Concern.)
Gateway’s Health Trainers include alcohol awareness as part of their everyday conversations with clients.
Health Trainer Susan says, “When new people are referred to us, we get them to complete a food and drink diary, and as part of this we will go through their alcohol units. Often, this is the first time people have become aware of exactly what they’re consuming week by week, and that includes how many units they’re drinking.” Often, we find that this awareness is enough to get people to start cutting down.
For many people, talking about “units” and “measures” doesn’t really hit home without visual examples. Wayne, another Health Trainer says, “comparisons are really useful. We use examples like the equivalent in sugar – would you consume a cup of sugar in one sitting? Of course not, but that’s what you’re doing when you go to the pub and drink four or five pints.”
For many people drinking is part of their routine, so Health Trainers work with their clients to identify this and look for alternative habits. Susan says, “One woman I worked with used to go to the local shop and buy bits and bobs, including alcohol, most days. She spotted this was an issue so instead of habitually going to the shop, she started going for a 20 minute walk around the block instead. Obviously this has given her a number of benefits – she’s saving money and getting exercise as well as cutting right down on her alcohol intake.”
Like all big lifestyle changes, people will often discuss it for a while before anything happens. Drinking and smoking will often be tackled after the client has made wider lifestyle changes, and it happens as part of that longer “chain reaction”. Our Health Trainers are particularly skilled at reminding people regularly – but gently! – of the need to cut down, spotting when someone is ready to take the next step, and supporting them through the changes. (We should also point out that if the Health Trainer identifies that someone has a problem with alcohol, then they will refer people to specialist alcohol misuse services.)
In these statements from clients, you can see a couple of different ways in which people have started to cut down on alcohol, as part of their wider lifestyle changes, after working with a Health Trainer:
I have been following your advice on how to reduce my alcohol intake by drinking water in between, and going to the pub later, plus planning what I am going to eat instead of just going for a take-away.
Since I’ve seen you last week I feel so much better. I’ve been to the gym and I’m looking to go three times a week. I’ve cut down to two coffees from five and drank loads of water. I’ve had no crisps, ice cream or alcohol. I’m on it now. It helps knowing I’m coming to see you because it makes me want to change.
Want to know more about alcohol awareness?
We run accredited courses in many health related subjects, including a Level 2 RSPH award in Understanding Alcohol Misuse. We deliver qualifications directly to your workforce and courses are tailored to your organisation’s needs. For more information, see our list of health and wellbeing courses and contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820.