‘Alcohol and schools don’t mix’

A report which outlines the harm caused by exposing children to alcohol at school fundraisers is a good move from a health promotion perspective says Dr Viliami Puloka.   The Hawke’s Bay District Health Board has endorsed the report which was prepared by Rowan Manhire-Heath with support from the Hawke’s Bay DHB Population Health and Business Intelligence teams and suggests ways schools can become alcohol-free . According to the report the Hawke’s Bay population as a whole is drinking more hazardously than New Zealanders on average and of particular concern to the DHB is the presence and promotion of alcohol in schools and educational settings. “The District Health Board is clear in its position: alcohol and schools do not mix,” it states. Dr Puloka the Senior Health Promotion Strategist with HPF says when it comes to students, especially younger ones they often copy what they see adults are doing. He says the big issue with drinking alcohol in a school setting was the role-modelling and wrong message that was being sent out. Drinking alcohol in school settings he points out is inconsistent with what schools stand for, the safe environment they provide for young people and what is taught in class. “They are brought up to embrace school and school authority so if they see alcohol sold or consumed at fundraisers and the like, they will think drinking is normal and act by association.” By endorsing the report the DHB, he says, is giving out a powerful statement. “We are not interfering with choice but we’re talking about providing the right environment and setting an example “So from the Health Promotion Forum’s perspective this is a good message and should be extended to all schools.” Dr Puloka adds that the report’s guidelines on how schools can develop their own alcohol policies are also a step in the right direction. “HPF supports this move wholeheartedly. The guidelines are important part of policy directions.” Currently, there is no legislation that prohibits the selling or supplying of alcohol on school property. Boards of Trustees currently decide school policy matters. Report author and population health adviser Rowan Manhire-Heath told Hawkes Bay Today that the DHB was concerned at the pervasiveness of alcohol promotion and had the view that when alcohol was consumed in a school setting it reinforced the inaccurate perception that it was a safe product. According to data collected by the DHB from March 2014 to October 2017 on the educational settings and types of events where a licence to sell alcohol was granted, 39 per cent of applications were from primary or intermediate schools, 29 per cent from secondary schools and six per cent from early childhood centres. Lower decile schools were less likely to apply for a licence and quiz, casino, bingo, movie and auction nights were the most common events where an alcohol licence was granted and young people’s attendance was anticipated.