Alcohol causes more harm to the fetus than other drugs
It does not matter what type of alcohol is consumed, it immediately crosses into the baby’s bloodstream via the placenta and adversely impacts normal development.
Alcohol is recognised as the ‘heavy hitter’ causing more damage to the fetus than other recreational substances such as tobacco, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine or marijuana.
There is no 'safe' level of alcohol use in pregnancy
Drinking to intoxication places a developing embryo and fetus at the greatest risk of harm. However, medical research has not been able to establish a safe amount that all pregnant women can drink and there are studies showing harm at very low level. Therefore, ther advice of many health authorities across the world is - Do not drink alcohol if you are pregnant, could be pregnant or when breastfeeding.
For more information, check out HPA's alcohol.org.nz website -
- Drinking advice for women who could be pregnant, are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant - https://www.alcohol.org.nz/alcohol-its-effects/alcohol-and-pregnancy/what-you-need-to-know
- Alcohol & pregnancy - https://www.alcohol.org.nz/alcohol-its-effects/alcohol-pregnancy
New Zealand has an FASD Action Plan
In 2016, the Government took steps to develop New Zealand’s first FASD Action Plan ‘Taking Action on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder 2016-2019 – An Action Plan’. (FASD Working Group 2016).
The Plan is a multiagency approach across health, justice, and social sectors to guide policy and service delivery within communities to prevent FASD and improve outcomes for those affected by it.
The plan targets early intervention with those thought to be at high-risk of drinking during pregnancy.
Changes to the drinking environment to reduce alcohol availability were not included in the plan. It is well-known that the wider drinking culture is a strong determinant of the prevalence of drinking during pregnancy. Therefore, we need to take a multi-pronged approach to reduce the harm from FASD.
Although improvements have been occurring regarding FASD diagnosis, children with significant learning and behaviour problems linked to prenatal alcohol exposure remain undiagnosed within our health services and ineligible for extra support. Families living with FASD remain ineligible for respite care.
Ministry of Education FASD Guide for teachers
The Ministry of Education have produced an Inclusive Education FASD Guide for teachers http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/fasd/.
There are two important components in preventing the harm from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder:
- Preventing FASD by supporting alcohol-free pregnancies
- Enabling effective and appropriate care for persons affected by FASD
There is strong evidence that both components are essential in reducing harm from this preventable disability. Click below to learn more or click the button for the Health Promotion Agency infosheet.
On the spot - take action immediately
Stopping someone from getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking could save their life and the lives of innocent others.
If it is an emergency - call 111 and provide the details to emergency services.
If it is safe to do so, take their keys off them and offer to find them a safe ride home.
If the risk of drink driving is associated with a licensed premise - advise the licensee or duty manager of the risk and remind them of their duties to support safe transport options.
If the person has been drinking on a licensed premise and appears intoxicated then report the incident to the local licensing team and/or Police. See the Licensing section for more information.
Be a positive role model
Always drive sober and encourage members of your family/whanau to do likewise.
If you are hosting a family/whanau gathering or event, be a responsible host – e.g. make it alcohol-free, or have a range of alcohol-free options available, arrange a place for people to stay or a safe ride home if they’ve been drinking. See Places and Events for more information on planning events.
Spread the word
Take opportunities as they arise to discuss drink-driving, its risks and consequences with your family/whanau.
Develop some safety protocols/kawa with your family/whānau. These can focus on how to avoid the risks of drinking and driving, and having a plan to get home safely should that be necessary.
Start a group or if you are already part of a group or network you can plan initiatives to reduce drinking and driving in your community. For more information on doing this see Mobilising Others.
Assist people to get the help they need
If you have any concerns about someone you know who is drinking and driving assist them or their family to get professional help.
Help can be reached at your GP/local medical centre, school counsellor or local Community Alcohol and Drug Service.
The Alcohol and Drug Helpline is a useful starting point for anyone who has concerns about their own or others drinking. They will be able to support you towards the best course of action and local services including youth services - 0800 787 797.
Advocate to increase the number of random breath tests
To ensure our drink driving limits are effective, we need to enforce them. However, random breath test numbers have been declining substantially and we need to increase them to the point of one test per year per licensed driver. That would mean around 3 million tests per year. A lot more than what we are currently doing.
Speak to your local MP about this issue.
Change the wider environment to change our drinking culture
By reducing the amount of alcohol consumed, we can help reduce drink driving.
The most effective measures to reduce the amount we drink are listed below. Read each section to find out how you can take action on these environmental factors that support low-risk drinking.
You can mobilise others to:
New Zealand has a Vision Zero approach to road deaths - where no-one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes. This cannot be achieved without strong action on alcohol.
Drink driving doesn't just harm the driver - passengers and other road users (including pedestrians) are also killed or injured in alcohol-related road crashes.
Between 2017 and 2019, for every 100 alcohol or drug-impaired drivers or riders who died in road crashes, 27 of their passengers and 32 other road users died with them.
The risk of crashing increases with the amount of alcohol in the blood at the time of driving. Road traffic crashes involving alcohol are more likely to result in death or severe injuries.
On the spot - Address any immediate health and safety issues
If you are concerned about your safety, or that of others, call emergency services on 111.
When any urgent matters are under control and if you feel it is safe to do so, look to minimise any further consumption and risks. Get assistance with this if possible.
If you see an intoxicated person in a licensed premises (e.g pub, night club) alert the duty manager, and/or the Police on 111. If you know that an intoxicated person has been drinking at a particular licensed premises, then follow the above.
Spread the word - Promote informed choice
As opportunities arise guide people in your life to relevant information on alcohol and to the low-risk drinking guidelines.
Develop some safety protocols/kawa with your family/Whānau. These can focus on how to avoid drinking excessively, and what to do if they are in trouble.
If you have a group or network that you belong to, work together to raise awareness in your community about alcohol and share relevant information and links to low-risk drinking guidelines or other tools.
Assist people to get the help they need
If you have any concerns about the alcohol use of people in your life, assist them or their family to get professional help.
- Help can be reached at your GP/local medical centre, school counsellor or local Alcohol and Drug Service.
- The Alcohol and Drug Helpline is a useful starting point for anyone who has concerns about their own or others drinking. They will be able to support you towards the best course of action and local services including youth services - 0800 787 797.
Change the wider environment to change our drinking culture
Take action on environmental factors which support low-risk drinking. For example, foster and mobilise others to:
Alcohol is a toxin the body wants to get rid of
When alcohol is consumed, the human body is alerted and will start to eliminate it. The liver does much of this process.
It takes around one hour for a healthy liver to process a single standard drink. This is only an average, a person's other health issues will impact this.
Drinking more than one standard drink in an hour will mean that the liver cannot keep up, and the alcohol will build up and start to be absorbed into the blood stream.
This leads to a range of impairments;
- Initially, the drinker will experience light-headedness and feelings of euphoria – generally these are pleasant. They are the early signs of impairment.
- Balance and movement will be affected – increasing the risk of falls and other injuries.
- Slowed reaction times – slowing essential skills needed for driving, cooking, looking after children etc.
- Impaired judgement – increasing the risk of aggression, and making poor choices such as driving, or getting into a car with someone intoxicated, or continuing to drink, or having sex you later regret.
- Changed mood and emotional state – this can lead to missing or misinterpreting social cues increasing the risk of aggression and violence, depression.
- “Hangover” – the after effects of heavy drinking can carry over into the next day. This might affect the ability to attend work, school or university, look after children or other responsibilities.
Continued consumption can lead to black-outs and alcohol poisoning.
As well as injuries and violence, heavy consumption of alcohol can have significant and long-term effects on the body including brain damage, liver damage and failure.
The law on intoxication
New Zealand does not have any laws against being intoxicated or drunk. Rather, the Police can apprehend persons if they are creating disorder.
There are a number of offences related to intoxication. Most of these relate to licensed premises. You can read them here.
For example, a licensed premises MUST NOT:
- Sell or supply alcohol to an intoxicated person
- Allow a person to become intoxicated on their premises
- Allow a person who is intoxicated to remain in the licensed premises
In addition, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to be drinking in a public place (without their parent/guardian).
Factors which facilitate heavy drinking in New Zealand
There are a number of factors in our environment which facilitate heavy drinking:
- licensed premises open late at night and early morning,
- a high number of licensed premises in an area
- high exposure to alcohol marketing and promotion,
- cheap alcohol products
- certain types of products such as Ready-to-drinks (RTDs)
- availability of higher strength beverages.
Screening for hazardous drinking
The earlier we intervene on hazardous drinking, the less harm will result.
Ideally, everyone who is seen by a health practitioner should be screened for alcohol use, and if found to drink hazardously, provided with brief intervention and referral to treatment.
Intoxication increases the risk of a range of alcohol-related harms
Intoxication often leads to acute effects including violence, unintentional injuries and self-harm, but also longer terms harms such as long-term health conditions and social problems.
Skills and inhibitions decrease with more amount of alcohol is consumed on a single occasion. This often leads to a greater risk of injury during, or immediately, after the drinking occasion.
In 2019/20, among those who drank in the past year in New Zealand:
- 14.6% consumed 6 or more drinks on one occasion at least weekly
- 27.5% consumed 6 or more drinks on one occasion at least monthly
- 25.7% were classified as hazardous drinkers.
Drinking four standard drinks on a single occasion more than doubles the relative risk of an injury in the six hours afterwards, and the relative risk rises even more rapidly when more than four standard drinks are consumed on a single occasion.
“Like alcohol is easily accessible to buy and get, see coming from Mangere and Southside,
there is a liquor store in every corner especially in Otara, also they look at social media
like American gangs, American rap, they see and follow that hip hop culture, but the problem is that the youth are no knowing what their own culture is you know,
they are just following what the media portrays and they conform to it…stink buzz” (Fehoko, 2014)
We need to address the environmental factors that often cause a disproportionate impact of alcohol-related harm among Pacific communities. For example, alcohol is widely accessible where Pacific people live. Other factors include alcohol sponsorship in sport/club events. Therefore, it is important to also check out other sections on ActionPoint and take action accordingly.
Reducing alcohol-related harm by applying Pacific Health models
In additional to addressing the environmental factors, check out the following models/projects that utilise church settings to promote healthy lifestyles.
This includes Pacific Health models namely the Fonua model and the The Fonofale model. In the Auckland region, there are two major health promotion projects in Pacific churches. These models or projects often take a comprehensive approach and encourage partnership between church leaders, youth leaders, the whole congregation and health promoters. Therefore, it is important for you to talk to your local Public Health Unit at your District Health Board.
Check out PACIFIC HEALTH MODELS
In the Auckland region, there are two major health promotion projects in Pacific churches:
- Enua Ola is a community action project supporting church or community groups to establish health committees within their groups and strengthen communication networks. The aim of Enula Ola is to empower, educate and support Pacific people to lead physically active lifestyles and also to adopt healthier eating behaviours.
- The initiative is developed by the Waitemata District Health Board (WDHB) and there are currently 34 participating groups and Churches in the North Shore and West Auckland.
- Visit their facebook - https://www.facebook.com/enuaola2019/
Healthy Village Action Zones (HVAZ)
- The HVAZ is an initiative of the Auckland District Health Board with the aim to enable Pacific communities to make healthy lifestyle choices by means of collaborative action between key stakeholders (e.g. Primary Health Organisations, Pacific churches in the Auckland region) and support Pacific communities to develop their own solutions to their health priorities
- Healthy village action zones are set up within the district to support Pacific churches in setting up health committees and strengthen community networks. Parish Community Nurses are connected with primary health care organisations.
- Visit their page - http://www.adhb.govt.nz/planningandfunding/pacific%20health.htm
Applying for funding
Apart from seeking funding from your own denomination, you may consider applying for funding from charities commissions to support your projects (if your church is registered as a charity) - APPLYING FOR FUNDING
You may also talk to your local Public Health Unit for collaboration and funding opportunities.