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SANCA and Distell launch science-based research programme to combat alcohol abuse

14 September 2021

SOWETO, September 14 - Distell, the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) and Canadian-based behavioural science experts, The Decision Lab, have joined forces to investigate the root causes of alcohol abuse and develop evidence-based, measurable behaviour change programmes to address it.

The partnership was launched with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Soweto today.

The behaviour change project will be managed by SANCA in collaboration with law-enforcement agencies such as the SAPS and the JMPD, the Department of Health, Gauteng Liquor Board, universities and local government, underpinned by the National Drug Master Plan.

The findings from the behavioural change programme will be reported in a peer-reviewed publication in due course to enable others to build on the success of the programme, learn from any challenges encountered, and adapt to other contexts with pace.

SANCA National Director Adrie Vermeulen said they would conduct field research to inform the development of effective alcohol harm reduction interventions.

“We will then train implementation teams to carry out the pilot interventions in targeted communities, roll them out and measure the results.”

Vermeulen said SANCA supported the principle of reducing the harms associated with excessive alcohol use by promoting changes in behaviour.

“There is such a thing as the responsible consumption of alcohol. We at SANCA are dedicated to the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction, but there is also a need to educate the broader population on the responsible consumption of alcohol.”

“Alcohol abuse is a serious issue in our country that is exacerbated by complex socioeconomic and public health factors,” said Distell Southern Africa MD Wim Buhrmann.

“We want to create a new culture of alcohol moderation in South Africa and to achieve this we need to understand the drivers of alcohol misuse and follow the science to find effective solutions.

“This partnership brings together the foremost experts from within the country and abroad to design and pilot evidence-based programmes and evaluate the results, so we have a clear picture of how to address this issue effectively, based on field-tested science,” said Buhrmann.

“We have a unique set of challenges in South Africa and we need solutions that factor in the local context.”

SANCA and Distell have signed an MOU setting out the funding, scope and objectives of the programme, which will initially run for a period of 6 months.

Established in 1956, SANCA is the largest non-government organisation dealing with the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in the country.

The organisation provides highly effective primary and secondary prevention services, as well as comprehensive treatment programmes for chemically dependent people and their families.

SANCA will co-ordinate the behaviour change project to collect quality data to guide priorities for alcohol harm intervention, followed by the development and training of targeted interventions informed by research.