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Sobering insights into alcohol marketing and Māori children

Wellington campus

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Professor Louise Signal image
Professor Louise Signal.

Innovative camera research has revealed that New Zealand children are exposed to alcohol marketing in their residential and school neighbourhoods. The collaborative research by the Universities of Otago and Auckland, found children’s exposure to alcohol marketing was higher in neighbourhoods with greater numbers of alcohol outlets and for Māori participants.

In their residential neighbourhoods, Māori and Pacific children had 14 and five times higher rates of exposure to alcohol marketing than New Zealand European children, respectively. Disparities are mainly attributed to higher rates of exposure via off-licence outlets for Māori children. Children also had higher rates of exposure to alcohol marketing the closer they lived to an off-licence alcohol outlet or when there was an off-licence outlet close to their school.

“The study found that off-licence alcohol outlets in children’s residential neighbourhoods and around their schools were linked with higher rates of exposure to alcohol marketing. The lack of effective controls on the location of alcohol outlets around schools leads to the normalisation of alcohol in children’s environments,” says lead researcher Tim Chambers from the University of Otago, Wellington.

“This research provides further evidence of the need for legislative restrictions on alcohol marketing and availability, specifically, increasing marketing restrictions on alcohol outlet shopfronts and the location of alcohol outlets,” says Chambers, a research fellow in the Department of Public Health at UOW.

The research was published in the latest issue of Health and Place, an auxiliary project of the Kids’Cam Study, which in a world-first, involved children wearing cameras and GPS devices to examine their world.

A random selection of 168 children between the ages of 11 and 13 from 16 randomly selected schools in the Wellington region took part in the study, wearing the devices, which recorded photos every seven seconds and locations every five seconds over four days between June 2014 and July 2015.

The researchers are calling for urgent government action to restrict alcohol marketing and availability in children’s neighbourhoods in order to reduce alcohol-related harm.

"The findings are a real concern given there is now a large evidence base that shows exposure to alcohol marketing is associated with increased childhood alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm,” Chambers says.

Alcohol marketing contributes to the worldwide burden of alcohol-related harm. In New Zealand, alcohol contributes to 800 deaths and costs the country over $5 billion per year. Moreover, alcohol is linked to more than 200 medical conditions and causes a number of cancers. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends restrictions on alcohol marketing and availability as ‘best buys’ for reducing alcohol-related harm.

“The higher rates of exposure to alcohol marketing for Māori children demonstrate the government is not meeting its obligations to Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi,” says co-author Professor Louise Signal, “particularly as Māori are 1.5 times more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Māori.”

These results reinforce the recent claim to the Waitangi Tribunal that the Government has not met its obligations to Māori through its failure to implement the Law Commission recommendations, as well as correct other failings in the health system.

The researchers say that introducing location-based restrictions on alcohol outlets, such as prohibiting alcohol outlets within 500 metres of schools, would substantially reduce children’s exposure to alcohol marketing and protect children from the adverse effects of early onset alcohol consumption.

The research was funded by the Health Research Council of NZ as part of the DIET research programme (13/724) led by Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu at the University of Auckland. Tim Chambers’ research was also funded through a Fulbright Scholarship undertaken at Harvard University.

The full paper can be downloaded for free for a limited time here.

For further information, contact:

Professor Louise Signal
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
Email louise.signal@otago.ac.nz

Cheryl Norrie
Communications Adviser
University of Otago, Wellington
Mob +64 21 249 6787
Email cheryl.norrie@otago.ac.nz

For Te Reo Māori interviews, contact:
Matiu Workman
Communications Adviser (Māori)
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 279 9139
Email matiu.workman@otago.ac.nz

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