UWE Helps Tackle Alcohol Problems In Africa

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International experts on the health impacts of alcohol and drug abuse, Professors Moira Plant and Martin Plant, from the University of the West of England have been invited to collaborate with members of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences in the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

They will be devising a long-term national programme of research into the economic costs of alcohol and other drug problems in South Africa. In preparation for the conduct of local studies on the economic cost of problems related to psychoactive substance use in South Africa, a provisional training manual for team members was discussed.

This will be attended by the UWE researchers, together with representatives from the University of the North, Pretoria University and Johannesburg University (South Africa) as well as Makere University (Uganda). It is likely that the new research programme will include studies similar to some of those carried out by UWE's Alcohol and Health Research Unit. The latter include epidemiological surveys of alcohol, tobacco and drug use by young people and adults in varied social settings.

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The Plants will also advise on the creation of a network and support mechanism for alcohol researchers throughout Africa.

Martin Plant explains, “It is hoped that these will be able to come together at a series of small, informal symposia similar to those the UWE team have been arranging in the UK for over 30 years. Support for this plan has already been secured from colleagues in Africa's two heaviest drinking countries, Nigeria and Uganda.

“South Africa, 'the Rainbow Nation', has many health and social problems, including those related to legal and illicit drug use. Like other sub-Saharan countries, it also has catastrophic levels of HIV/AIDS and high levels of premature mortality. Many of these problems appear to be growing.”

Moira Plant comments, “It is a privilege to be able to work with a multi-racial team that includes not only South Africans, but also people from other parts of Africa. Alcohol and other drug alcohol problems are far too widespread for any single country to respond adequately without assessing the nature, scale, distribution and cost of the problem. Furthermore, no country has all the answers, so we need to share whatever is known about the best and most practical responses and solutions.”

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