A ‘Youth and Alcohol’ chair will start in January at the University of Antwerp to better map and reduce excessive alcohol consumption among young people.
Within the chair, a pilot project for the first Flemish alcohol clinic in the Antwerp University Hospital (UZA) will also be set up.
Research by the Intermutualist Agency (IMA), the UZA and the University of Antwerp shows that, in 2018, more than 2,200 young people with alcohol poisoning were admitted to emergency rooms in Belgium. Other research shows that one in three 17- and 18-year-olds drink at least once a month.
The Netherlands is a long way ahead of Flanders in tackling alcohol abuse among young people. Its driving force is paediatrician Nico van der Lely, connected to the Reinier de Graaf hospital in Delft and guest lecturer at the University of Antwerp.
In 2010, he founded the Stichting Jeugd en Alcohol (Youth and Alcohol Foundation). This foundation researches the theme, provides information and raises awareness, and has since set up twelve alcohol clinics in Dutch hospitals.
“In our outpatient clinics, young people with alcohol intoxication are treated and follow a special programme to prevent future abuse,” van der Lely said.
“It is crucial to start working with the young person immediately in the ‘golden hour’, the first hour after waking up from the intoxication,” he underlined.
“We also involve the parents intensively. The approach works: where you used to often see the same young people entering the emergency room drunk, the relapse has now been reduced to virtually zero,” van der Lely added.
The Dutch approach is now being followed in Flanders. In January 2021, the ‘Reinier de Graaf Chair Youth and Alcohol’ will start at the University of Antwerp, financed by the Delft hospital.
Van der Lely and University of Antwerp Professor Guido Van Hal will become holders of the chair, and professors Jozef De Dooy and Stijn Verhulst, both associated with UZA and the university, will also put their shoulders to the wheel.
The aim of the chair is to better map out alcohol abuse among young people in Flanders. “A PhD student will focus, among other things, on a more efficient registration system, and will work on prevention and awareness-raising. Within the chair, a pilot project for the first Flemish alcohol policy, at the UZA, will also be realised,” said Van Hal.