KOTA KINABALU August 31, 2012: Sabah ranked third in alcohol use in the country after Kuala Lumpur and Sarawak, according to a recent Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) survey.
Two-thirds of the drinkers in Sabah are consuming alcohol in a way which may put their health at risk, said UMS Senior Lecturer of Psychiatry Dr Wendy Shoesmith.
She said the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than two standard drinks on a single occasion, with one standard drink being equivalent to a can of beer or 70ml of montoku or 120ml of tapai.
The alcohol problem in Sabah is not so much in dependence as it is in binge drinking, Dr Wendy told the Borneo Post, adding that a lot of villagers wanted to change that.
To address this issue, Mercy Malaysia is organizing a workshop for healthcare professionals, and community and youth leaders.
The ‘Addressing Alcohol Harm Workshop’ also involves the State Health Department, Johor Mental Health Association, various NGOs, such as Suhakam, village representatives from across Sabah and a school councillor from SM St Michael.
Dr Wendy said drug and alcohol specialist Dr Sivakumar Thurairajasingam will be training the healthcare leaders to manage people with problematic use of alcohol.
She said community and youth leaders will then find solutions to alcohol problems in their own community through discussions.
“One aim of the workshop is to improve collaboration between healthcare professionals and community and youth leaders so that innovative solutions can be found,” she said.
According to Mercy Malaysia Sabah administrative officer Edna Salumbi, another objective is to train community leaders to help influence and educate villagers and neighboring villages on binge drinking and its effects.
Mercy’s alcohol harm workshop began in 2009 and has been a yearly event since then.
This September’s workshop will be a follow-up to this year’s first workshop in April.
The 33 participating villagers from select villages in April will be returning this September to share their experience.
“We’ll do a recap of the villages’ progress in addressing the issue and share their experiences and activities conducted,” said Edna.