Substance Abuse

SOCHARA recognizes alcohol abuse as one of the major public health problems. From time to time we have addressed the issue of alcohol in all our policy, research, advocacy and training programmes. We contributed to the issue of alcohol being addressed as mental health problem and one of the major causes of violence against women in the Karnataka taskforce force on health (2001) and in the state health policy under non communicable disease (2002). Our approach to tackle alcohol abuse at the community level is through community health approach. The initiative we experimented is known as ‘Community Health Approach to Tackle Alcohol related problems (CHATA). Through the course of the community health initiative conducted by SOCHARA, there was an increasing concern about feedback given by members of urban slums as well as from rural women’s groups. In every Woman’s Health and Empowerment training session conducted by SOCHARA, alcohol abuse had been unanimously stated as one of the primary problems faced by the women. There were many requests from the community as well as health workers to addresses this problem. The process began with forming of a network of Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that brainstormed to develop a concrete plan to implement the program.

The network of NGOs was formed to share information and communicate ideas; support for decision making and creative thinking; integration of ideas; enhancing team building; overall leading to enhancing self-learning and group learning. The process followed a three phase action to address the issues viz., the brainstorming phase where an insight into the magnitude and solution were gained, under the needs assessment phase the family needs were assessed through a survey, analysis and designing a comprehensive plan to tackle alcohol related problems was the focus of the third phase. The youth, adult men and women were addressed in the action plan which included those who are habitual consumers of alcohol. Life Skill Education was an approach used for addressing the issue with the adolescent and youth. Recently, SOCHARA in collaboration with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) for undertook a study on ‘enforcement (compliance and violations) of the provisions of the State Alcohol Control Legislation (State Excise Act and other Alcohol Control Laws) in India. The Centre of Excellence in Alcohol Control of the Public Health Foundation of India envisioned creating a national coalition of various state level NGOs engaged in alcohol control issues in India to address the issues related to alcohol abuse. Accordingly a network was formed in 10 states and a short study was carried out in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh where it has its presence through the clusters established.

SOCHARAs’ tobacco control activities began in the year 2001-02 with an informal review of the tobacco situation in the state. At the same time we joined the Global Alliance for the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the WHO. In the same year a visit was organized for WHO officials to a beedi rolling unit in Chennapatna in Ramanagaram District in Karnataka.

In the year 2002 we played a key role in the formation of a civil society network known as ‘Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka’. The network played an active role in the state in crating awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco among various sections of the society. The network also advocated for policy formulation for tobacco control both in the state and nation. All our programmes always focused on issues related to both demand and supply of tobacco.

SOCHARA actively worked with the student body in the city and formed a student action for tobacco control. Over 50 colleges were part of the initiative. The students apart from working for creating awareness advocated for policy. SOCHARA also worked with high school and street children who are most vulnerable.