Drinkaware welcomed the opportunity to respond to the public consultation on the Healthy Ireland Men Action Plan (HI-M) 2017-2021). According to the 2021 Drinkaware Barometer, men are more than twice as likely to engage in binge drinking alcohol than women, at 31% vs 14%. Our aim in this response was to highlight this data, offer our research insights, and to offer our enthusiastic cooperation and participation to further the health and wellness of men and boys.
Drinkaware’s mission is to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland. Men and boys deserve coordinated research, education, and support from charities, groups, and the government, to better their health and wellbeing in the future.
The survey aimed to, amongst other areas, find out more about the public perception of the effectiveness of the contributions made by Healthy Ireland – Men, and what could be improved upon. Drinkaware applauded the work of Healthy Ireland – Men, and offered our services in bettering the lives of boys and men in Ireland.
Drinkaware already has access to knowledge, resources, and practical experiences that can aid the health of boys and men. Collaboration with groups and charities that already work directly with men can reduce time and energy that could be redirected to the actions that help boys and men in the present. It is vital for men’s health that effective education and access to information and resources, are implemented as soon as possible. A lack of collaboration, and therefore, a lack of knowledge and resource sharing, is a barrier to increasing the wellbeing of boys and men in Ireland.
The report rightly mentioned the significance of SPHE (Social Personal and Health Education) programmes in schools for boys. How they relate to the world, build life skills, and communicate emotions in a healthy manner is shaped by schools and teachers. The Action Plan also mentioned the aim to prevent harm caused by alcohol. As the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse and address underage drinking, Drinkaware already conducts elements of this work with the public and has done so over several years.
The Drinkaware Alcohol Education Programme and has been delivered to over 15,000 students to date. Drinkaware has trained 313 teachers in 161 schools in 25 counties to provide this education. The Programme is an evidence-informed eight-week manualised resource for junior cycle students. It supports and aligns with the Department of Education’s Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice 2018–2023 and was developed within the context of the Framework for Junior Cycle and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), so the programme has a strong focus on wellbeing. It also aligns with the strategic aims of Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – A health-led response to alcohol and drug use in Ireland 2017-2025 (Department of Health).
Our annual Barometer is a national survey conducted every year since 2017, providing a rich source of data from which patterns of current and emerging behaviours regarding alcohol use can be identified. For example, Drinkaware’s 2020-2021 Barometer paper’s provides a comprehensive overview of Irish adults’ drinking and if/how their behaviours have changed one year on from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the behaviours of men of different ages and life stages. Drinkaware is enthusiastic to share these findings with other groups, and to work together to create positive change.
Access to factual, relevant information is the first step on a positive behaviour journey. There is a massive deficit in this information regarding alcohol amongst the public and especially young adults (as evident in our research amongst students and also the adult population). This information includes the facts regarding harm, benefits to cutting down or cutting out alcohol, and also especially regarding what risky drinking actually is (only 2% of Irish men knowing the HSE low-risk weekly guidelines).
A public information campaign could equip more men and boys with important foundational information for their health and their future.
Drinkaware is a trusted charity – 86% of people view Drinkaware as a trusted source of alcohol information in Ireland (B&A 2021). We consistently provide public health campaigns on the low-risk weekly guidelines, what a standard drink is and what binge and risky drinking is, engaging with the public across all social media platforms and also face-to-face and in the workplace. Through collaboration, a public information campaign could leverage the publics’ trust and confidence in Drinkaware, and also the charity’s extensive reach across Irish society, to ensure a broad dissemination of this important information.