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WHO faces criticism over suggesting women of childbearing age should be advised against drinking

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has called on the WHO to review the report “as a matter of urgency”.

Image: Shutterstock/serenarossi

THE WORLD HEALTH Organisation has been criticised for suggesting that women of childbearing age should be advised against drinking. 

The WHO’s draft Global Alcohol Action Plan 2022-2030 calls on countries to pay “appropriate attention to prevention” of alcohol consumption in particular groups, including children, teenagers and women of childbearing age. 

The draft report says: “Appropriate attention should be given to prevention of the initiation of drinking among children and adolescents, prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age, and protection of people from pressures to drink, especially in societies with high levels of alcohol consumption where heavy drinkers are encouraged to drink even more.”

 The WHO suggested an international day or week of awareness on the harmful use of alcohol, or a “World no alcohol day/week”.

“Alcohol use is deeply embedded in the social landscape of many societies, and some 2300 million people drink alcohol beverages in most parts of the world,” the report says. 

Reacting to the report, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s chief executive Clare Murphy said it is “extremely disturbing” to see the WHO “risk hard-won women’s rights by attempting to control their bodies and choices in this way”. 

“A global organisation such as WHO should recognise the power that such dangerous messaging about women’s behaviour carries, and should be more alert to the impact of these statements,” Murphy said. 

“We urge them to review this document as a matter of urgency.” 

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Matt Lambert, chief executive of the Portman Group, the social responsibility body and regulator for alcohol in the UK, said the WHO has gone “well beyond their remit”. 

“We are extremely concerned by the WHO calling on countries to prevent drinking among women of childbearing age in their latest action plan,” Lambert said. 

The HSE advises that the recommended weekly low-risk guidelines are less than 11 standard drinks for women and 17 standard drinks for men. 

People are advised to have two to three alcohol-free days per week and to drink no more than six standard drinks on any one occasion. 

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