Alcohol and us

In Trucker's Health, October 20196 MinutesBy Laura PeacockOctober 29, 2019

To prevent or to penalise drinkdriving… The government, transport authorities and police have tried both strategies. Both work. Yet there will still be drivers who get behind the wheel of a 44-tonner after a few beers. Is there a third-string strategy to add to the combatting arsenal?

There is: Alcohol&Me is a programme, instigated by a brewery, that is achieving amazing success in changing the relationship Kiwis have with alcohol. Since it began in 2012 as a Lion Breweries‘ in-house programme aimed at helping Lion staff make informed decisions about alcohol, 86 companies have now used Alcohol&Me, and 51,000 people have been through the programme. Tracking studies show that 97% of people who attended the workshops would recommend it to others. The public online format, which is just one of formats offered by Alcohol&Me, has an average of 500 visitors a day.

Alcohol&Me‘s programme manager Jude Walter says the object of the programme is to help people make informed decisions about how they drink, empowering people to stay safe and sociable when drinking alcohol. “It is non-judgemental, and it is not about getting people to drink less or not drink at all. It is about giving them easy access to the best-in-class information they need to make the choices that are right for them. “We want to help as many adult New Zealanders as we can to make smarter drinking choices. We give them quality information they can trust, without an overlay of any kind of guilt complex,” Jude says.

Photo: Jude Walter: “We have sufficient flexibility in the programme to give each company the programme they need delivered the way they want.”

The workplace programme comprises three formats, the first of which is a three-hour facilitated workshop that Alcohol&Me describes as perfect for organisations looking for new and different ways to bring their alcohol policy to life. Jude says it is extremely valuable for anyone working with machinery and/or driving company vehicles, and is perfect for trucking firms. The second format is a one-hour introductory quiz, an interactive team-based session that provides participants with key factors surrounding the significance of a standard drink and how alcohol affects the body and mind. The format is often incorporated into a company‘s wellbeing retreat or programme and gives businesses a cost-effective way to proactively engage and support their employees. The third format is online and enables participants to extract the key learnings from Alcohol&Me as time allows.

Setting the standard
At the centre of much of alcohol education is understanding what a ‘standard drink‘ is – after all “one more drink won‘t hurt me” really depends on what that drink is and how much time has passed since the previous drink. The human liver can only process one standard drink per hour and there is no way to speed up this process. If the label on your drink of choice says 1.3 standard drinks, that means it is going to take your body 1.3 hours to process the alcohol in that bottle, glass or can.

It comprises five online modules, each three to 12 minutes in length. Jude says it is perfect for organisations wanting to incorporate alcohol understanding into their nationwide health and safety programmes without taking people off the job for long periods of time. She adds that the formats are presented in a fun and digestible way. They draw on expert information from people in New Zealand and around the world, including doctors, nutritionists and social anthropologists. “We also peer-review the programme every year to make sure it remains relevant and includes the latest research.

We pride ourselves in having a quality programme, and we want to keep it that way,” she says. Jude knows that there may be logistical questions from some companies, particularly from transport operators for whom taking their drivers off the road, even for a short time, is the last thing they want. “No two companies are the same and we have sufficient flexibility in the programme to give each company the programme they need delivered the way they want – that best suits them. It is just a matter of talking to us.”