Drunk Up? Report Hammers Thunder Bay Drinkers

Thunder Bay and Drinking - A northern tradition?
Thunder Bay and Drinking - A northern tradition?
Thunder Bay and Drinking – A northern tradition?

THUNDER BAY – A new report from TBDHU shows that nearly 50% of adults in the Thunder Bay District report drinking alcohol in excess of the low-risk drinking guidelines. This proportion is higher than the provincial proportion of 42%. The Report on Alcohol Use, Harms & Potential Actions in Thunder Bay District also links our higher drinking rates to injuries, chronic diseases and social harms and presents evidence for reducing harms at the local level. The report was released at the Let’s Start a Plan to Reduce Alcohol-Related Harms forum held at Ka-Na-Chi-Hih. Over 70 community leaders from health, education, business, policing and social services sectors gathered to learn about the new findings and initiate a community-based approach to address alcohol use issues.

Drinking habits in Thunder Bay are showing that the consumption of alcohol is exceeding the provincial average by a significant amount. The costs in terms of healthcare, policing, and other societal costs are climbing.

The Thunder Bay Police Service responds to more “Quality of Life” calls than any other incident except for traffic accidents.

Thunder Bay appears in many ways to be a city of drink, in a place where being equally responsible isn’t held to the same level.

The report – the culmination of information gathered from a situational assessment conducted by the TBDHU over the past year – focuses on how much people in our district are drinking, who is affected by it and what can be done to reduce alcohol related harms. Included are perspectives about alcohol use from people in our district who regularly see its negative impacts. Some of these personal stories were shared at the forum.

The Health Unit is looking to means of starting a discussion on the issue.

“Alcohol is linked to a variety of problems that affect the people in the Thunder Bay District,” says Dr. Janet DeMille, Acting Medical Officer of Health at the TBDHU. “To address our specific needs, it is important that our community partners’ experiences and knowledge are integrated into approaches that have proven to be successful in reducing alcohol-related harm. Through community collaboration and commitment, we can focus on long-term meaningful solutions to address this complex issue.”

To start a conversation about potential solutions, Jason LeMar, a specialist in alcohol policy with Public Health Ontario, presented evidence on how community-based policies can work to control the harms of alcohol. LeMar gave examples of focused policies that work including municipal alcohol policies to regulate availability, programs that make drinking environments safer, and the inclusion of alcohol screening and brief interventions in health care practices.

Organizers expect the event and report will springboard community leaders into taking action towards developing a collaborative plan for reducing alcohol-related harms in the district with a planning session soon to follow.

“The number of people here today shows how committed we are to making a difference in people’s lives,” says Cynthia Olsen, Coordinator of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy. “We all heard about ways that we can continue to work together as part of the solution towards reducing alcohol-related harms. It is in everyone’s interest.”

The Report on Alcohol Use, Harms & Potential Actions in Thunder Bay District is available online at bit.ly/letsstarttbay

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