PHE ’ s gambling review made explicit that for gambling harm to be tackled effectively it needs to be treated as a public health issue . DDN hears from GambleAware chief executive Zoe Osmond about her organisation ’ s public health approach
Public Health England ’ s ( PHE ) long awaited Gambling harms : evidence review ( see news , page 4 ) stated that harmful gambling needed to be considered a public health issue as it was ‘ associated with harms to individuals , their families , close associates and wider society ’.
The review examined the mental and physical health harms associated with gambling in almost 50 different studies , and found that people with a gambling disorder have an ‘ increased risk of dying from any cause , in a given time period , relative to the general population ’. People with gambling problems were ‘ at least ’ twice as likely to die as a result of suicide , and there was also a ‘ clear link ’ between problem gambling and heavy drinking , with three quarters of people consuming more than 50 units a week also participating in gambling – more than twice the level for non-drinkers . ‘ The aim of public health is to improve the health and wellbeing of the whole population ,’ said a 2018 policy statement from the Faculty of Public Health – and as gambling had the potential to cause harm to both individuals and to wider society it was clearly an issue that ‘ cannot be tackled by interventions aimed solely at individuals ’.
INEQUALITIES It hardly needs stating that , as with drugs and alcohol , the people most vulnerable to gambling related harm are concentrated in areas of higher deprivation , meaning that gambling is further exacerbating already entrenched health inequalities . A recent report from the University of Bristol and the Standard Life Foundation found that gambling premises were ten times more prevalent in deprived areas , with Standard Life Foundation chief executive Mubin Haq stating that ‘ those with the least resources are being targeted more ’ ( DDN , September , page 4 ). And of course none of this was helped by the liberalisation of the gambling laws in 2005 , which made it far easier for gambling companies to advertise on TV .
PHE ’ s call for a public health approach has been welcomed by the charity GambleAware , which recently recruited two senior staff with extensive public health experience as part of a restructuring to deliver a new five-year organisational strategy – chief commissioning officer Anna Hargrave worked in NHS commissioning for 13 years , while chief communications officer
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