A new professional organisation has been formed to help tackle problem gambling.
The Gambling Health Alliance (GHA) is the result of a partnership between the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and GambleAware, with the expressed mission to put gambling on the same platform as other major public health issues, with a focus on prevention and early intervention.
The GHA has initially been established for a three-year period, and will look to engage individuals, organisations and the wider community in helping to reduce the damage caused to physical and mental health through excessive gambling.
The RSPH’s chief executive, Shirley Cramer CBE, said of the Alliance: “While it is encouraging that gambling is rightly identified as a public health issue, more needs to be done to better understand the harms that arise from gambling, who is affected and what support can be provided to prevent harms from developing or escalating in the first place.
“We are delighted to announce the establishment of this Alliance, which we hope will have the same impact that other alliances concerned with issues impacting on the public’s health, such as obesity and alcohol, are having on raising consciousness and agreeing common goals for the public health and policy-making community to rally behind.”
The new Alliance will aim to tackle four key areas which they believe are preventing discussions of gambling-related harm entering wider discussions in parliament; or at least belatedly, anyway, as seen with the FOBT maximum stake regulation. These are:
- Highlight the rising concerns about gambling-related harms.
- Engage and influence policy makers, Government, NGOs and the public health community in order to encourage positive action.
- Promote evidence so it can be translated into practical steps.
- Undertake periodic surveys and polling to inform GHA campaigns to increase awareness of the health harms from gambling.
Taking a Stand
This is another step in the right direction for an industry dogged by concerns of how it protects its often vulnerable punters.
Back in 2017, the number of problem gamblers in the UK alone was estimated to be around 400,000 people, and clearly there are significant implications of that for them as individuals as well as society as a whole.
The Alliance aims to create an environment in which the behaviours associated with problem gambling can be identified earlier, with a more effective support network developed to help such individuals get the help they need at the earliest available opportunity.
The RSPH has been instrumental in two key campaigns, producing dossiers ‘Health on the High Street’, regarding the FOBT crisis, and ‘Life on Debt Row’, which touched upon the numbers of people using credit suppliers to facilitate their gambling.
Marc Etches, the chief executive of GambleAware, has thrown his weight behind the GHA. He said: “Gambling is increasingly being considered as a significant public health issue, and this new Alliance provides an opportunity for a wide range of organisations to act together to address it in a coordinated and more effective manner.”
“As research reveals more about the breadth and complexity of the harms associated with gambling, GambleAware sees clear value in forging new partnerships with those who share our objectives to reduce those harms through a multi-level public health response.”