Communities tackling the harms caused by alcohol
A new initiative that aims to support those who need to reduce their alcohol intake is being headed by a woman who nearly died as a result of her own alcohol addiction.
Sharon, a resident of Radcliffe, is one of 10 ‘alcohol health champions’ chosen to be a key part of the programme, which spans the entirety of Greater Manchester.
The Communities in Charge of Alcohol (CICA) scheme has a long term goal of placing around 30 ‘champions’ in each borough across the county.
Sharon said: "I was addicted to alcohol for many years.
"I underwent a liver transplant in March 2014 due to my addiction. I was very poorly and I was told I had an hour to live when they took me down to theatre."
Now Sharon works as a volunteer at One Recovery Bury (ORB), a free of charge service that works to help people in abstaining from substance abuse. She discovered CICA through her manager, Nikki Allison.
She has joined forces with a string of champions, each of whom have received training in order to help people take charge of their alcohol issues.
These champions have acquired Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Level 2 training in order to hold conversations regarding health and alcohol use with family, friends and workmates.
On top of this, they are also going to support people in the aim of reducing their drinking, by delivering advice or guiding them towards specific services.
This group of people are also attending community events in order to speak about the issue, as well as support communities to explore licensing concerns with their respective councils.
Sharon said: "I found the training for the alcohol health champions very fulfilling. An alcohol health champion means, to me, giving something back to the community, sharing awareness, and pointing people to the right professionals.
"It also enables me to listen to and understand people's views and if I can help one person to take the right path then it is very rewarding."
The scheme, which launched late last year, continues to grow. The goal is still to obtain 30 champions in every Greater Manchester borough.
Bury Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, Andrea Simpson, said: "The social and health harms associated with alcohol hit Greater Manchester harder than in most areas of England, as they do for most of the North West.
"For example, rates of alcohol specific hospital admissions and mortality are significantly higher in all GM boroughs than the England average.
"It is vital that we help communities to take charge of their own health and they are also best placed to have a positive influence on their friends and families."
The initiative was born out of a partnership between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership, the 10 councils of Greater Manchester, the Royal Society for Public Health, the University of Salford, and Public Health England North West.