WHO and the Beer Industry

Amie Gianino, Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. Its main goal is to provide leadership on health-related matters around the world. The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the WHO’s governing body and is comprised of 193 member states, or governments, that express their own health priorities and help set the WHO’s work program.

At a meeting in 2005, the WHA adopted a resolution (Public Health Problems Caused by Harmful Use of Alcohol, www.who.int/substance_abuse/wha58_26_en.pdf) that set into motion numerous activities and discussions by the WHO, member state governments, industry, and nongovernmental organizations to look at the problems associated with alcohol misuse. At this year’s assembly, another resolution (Strategies to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol, www.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB122/B122_R2-en.pdf) regarding harmful drinking was considered and adopted.

Amie Gianino’s presentation in San Antonio focused on the work previously undertaken by the WHO in this area and further discussed how this new resolution provides WHO with a mandate to develop a global strategy to address the harmful effects associated with abusive, excessive, and illegal alcohol consumption. The global strategy will be presented to the WHA for consideration at its meeting in 2010. Following that, the member states will assess how to implement the recommended strategies in accordance with their own cultural norms and economic circumstances.

The beer industry has a long history of developing and implementing initiatives to reduce alcohol misuse, and Gianino encouraged brewers to stay abreast of developments unfolding at the WHO. This is particularly important because the WHO and its experts often focus on population-based measures designed to decrease society’s overall consumption (i.e., increasing excise taxes and banning advertisements), rather than on targeted solutions (i.e., brief interventions between healthcare professionals and their patients) designed to reduce alcohol abuse without impacting moderate drinkers and the benefits they derive from alcohol.

Gianino further encouraged brewers to remind governments that our industry, through our economic contributions and social responsibility initiatives, plays a vital role in reducing poverty and ill health throughout the world. In fact, research shows that moderate consumption of our products by adults is consistent with the WHO’s own definition of health, which states that “health is a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing and not just the absence of disease.”

Amie Gianino is senior director of international affairs at Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. and has been with the company nearly 20 years. Gianino acts as the primary government relations representative for the company’s European operations and directs the company’s international public affairs strategies in areas such as taxation, marketing and distribution, labeling, and trade. She represents the company before governments, nongovernmental organizations, and international bodies. Gianino has a B.A. degree in statistics and a M.S. degree in mathematics and sits on the board of directors of several international and local organizations.

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