Patients benefit as drinkers go dry

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Hawke's Bay alcohol lovers bold enough to abstain for a whole month can help ease the suffering of adult cancer patients as part of the second annual Dry July campaign.

Last year more than 2100 people signed up for the inaugural New Zealand Dry July fundraiser, raising more than $550,000 for the Northern Regional Cancer and Blood Service at Auckland City Hospital - the main treatment centre for cancer patients in the upper North Island.

This year Dry July is raising funds for cancer centres in Christchurch and Wellington.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board director of population health Dr Caroline McElnay said the DHB had not considered the campaign, focusing more on harm reduction - getting people to reflect on how much they were drinking and reduce their alcohol intake.

Evidence on the benefits of abstaining from alcohol was still unclear, Dr McElnay said.

"It all depends on the individual and their background. In some situations that is a very appropriate thing for them as an individual.

"In terms of a message to the community, most of the research shows that the harm that you get from alcohol [is] related to how you're drinking - the bingeing, the volume of drinking." However, taking a month off would allow drinkers to assess any habits they had and why they were drinking.

"In global terms - yes it's good to have a month off alcohol, you'll get benefits from that. But do you then go back and make up for all the alcohol that you missed?"

Dry July donations last year allowed the installation of new televisions for cancer patients, a major garden renovation and 30 new chemotherapy chairs.

Health Promotion Agency (HPA) policy, research and advice general manager Dr Andrew Hearn said initiatives such as Dry July, where participants gave up alcohol for a set period, allowed individuals to re-assess their relationship with alcohol. "That's a good thing. It is also quite a novel way to raise funds for worthy causes."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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