Shocking extent of teen drinking culture

THE east of England has the highest rate of alcohol abuse in the country among children aged 13 to 15, latest figures reveal.

Craig Robinson

THE east of England has the highest rate of alcohol abuse in the country among children aged 13 to 15, latest figures reveal.

Health bosses in the region have now pledged to crack down on drink-related problems by introducing a new action plan aimed at improving lives.

According to the figures 12.6% of youngsters in the east of England aged 13 to 15 drink seven or more units a week - compared to the national average of 8.2%.

Meanwhile, around 2,000 people die each year in the region because of alcohol related illness - such as certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and liver disease.

The figures, released in a report from the East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA), also show that £85m is spent every year in Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire on hospital admissions and ambulance journeys related to alcohol misuse.

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Health bosses have now set out a series of pledges specifically designed to target alcohol abuse as part of their new Improving Lives; Saving Lives strategy.

Dr Paul Cosford, regional director of public health, said: “Excessive alcohol consumption is a major cause of health problems in the east of England.

“We want to be able to reduce alcohol-related harm and improve the overall health of people living in the region.

“We are committed to developing an action plan which will tackle the problems associated with alcohol-related harm.

“In our strategy we are clear that tackling alcohol misuse is key to delivering many of the pledges.

“We are now taking this forward and developing a regional strategy which will give a lead to PCTs to be able to commission services and support that will meet the needs of their local populations.”

The Improving Lives; Saving Lives strategy sets out 11 pledges, four of which specifically relate to alcohol abuse: quicker access to services, ensuring that fewer people sufferer from heart disease, stroke and cancer, halving the difference in life expectancy between the poorest communities and the rest of the east of England and ensuring healthcare is available to marginalised groups.

The action plan will be developed over the coming months to ensure intervention at an earlier stage in a bid to prevent illness or premature death from alcohol-related illnesses.

The East of England SHA wants to reduce alcohol-related harm through:

§ Making sure advice and services are available to people who drink above safe levels

§ Encouraging children not to drink

§ Delaying the age at which young people start to drink

§ Reducing the harm that alcohol can cause amongst those who do drink

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