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The OPHA is a not‐for‐profit member‐based association that provides leadership in advancing public health in Ontario. Our Association represents six public and community health disciplines and our membership represents many public health and community health professionals from Ontario. To learn more about us, our structure, strategic direction, or membership, please visit the following links:

The OPHA provides leadership on issues affecting the public's health and works to strengthen the impact of people who are active in public and community health throughout Ontario. For more information, please visit the following pages:

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This section includes the latest news about the OPHA and its programs, upcoming OPHA events, and other news of interest to the public health sector. For more information, please visit the following pages:

The OPHA leads the development of expertise in public and community health through collaboration, consultation and partnerships. Learn more about our Constituent Societies here.

The OPHA leads the development of expertise in public and community health through collaboration, consultation and partnerships. Learn more about our Constituent Societies here.

The OPHA Member’s Lounge is a dedicated space reserved for our OPHA members to store and access important information and exclusive resources. The Lounge includes the following:

Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue

Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue

Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue
May 17, 2018
Many factors influence how alcohol affects a person’s health, including how much and how often a person drinks, individual risk factors, and what they are doing while drinking. People wrongly believe that alcohol affects men and women in the same way. In fact, research tells us women are generally more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol due to the following factors:
  • On average, women weigh less than men and reach higher blood alcohol levels more quickly.
  • Women have more fat tissue, causing alcohol to be absorbed more slowly and causing the effects of alcohol to take longer to wear off.
  • Women have less water in their bodies to dilute alcohol. If a woman and a man of the same weight drink an equal amount of alcohol, a woman’s blood alcohol concentration will be higher.
  • Women have lower levels of the enzyme needed to break down alcohol. This means that alcohol remains in a woman’s system longer (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2014).
  • Changing hormone levels also affect how a woman metabolizes alcohol.
Drinking alcohol can cause both short and long-term health effects in women. Research has found that as little as one drink per day can increase the risk of breast cancer.  Alcohol is also linked to cancers of the mouth, neck, liver and colon/bowel. Studies report that women can develop alcohol-induced liver and brain damage more quickly than men from the same amount of alcohol. Pregnant women are cautioned against drinking to avoid the risk of having a baby with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Women are particularly at risk of experiencing gender-based violence. Drinking by both women and men can affect judgment and the ability to evaluate risk, and therefore increases women’s vulnerability to aggression, violence and sexual assault.

Despite these health harms, risky drinking is currently on the rise among women, especially those 35 years of age and older. In 2013, 56% of women aged 15 years and older reported binge drinking (four drinks or more in one sitting) at least once in the previous year, compared to 44% in 2004 (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2015). This isn’t surprising as the alcohol industry has been actively targeting women and girls to start drinking and to consume more alcohol. We are seeing a massive and unprecedented push across the alcohol industry to target women and girls – evident in product design and marketing messages. (Case in Point:
Johnnie Walker is launching Johnnie Walker Black Label - The Jane Walker Edition, donating $1 from every bottle to organizations championing women's causes).

The alcohol industry is using women’s empowerment and the narrative of gender equality to sell more of its product to a rapidly increasing market. This technique is not new. Big Tobacco’s appropriation of women’s equality to market cigarettes to women in the United States and around the world is well documented. Virginia Slims infamously used the women’s liberation movement to reach an untapped market, as did a number of other brands. Appropriating women’s empowerment to boost whiskey sales to women does nothing to change gender dynamics and power asymmetries. Of course, some may point to the donations that have been pledged: $1 for every bottle of the Jane Walker Edition will be donated to organizations championing women’s causes. But the fine print is much less impressive – the total donation pledged is a mere $250,000 from the largest alcohol producer in the world, which in 2017 reported an operating profit of over $4 billion. There are many options to advance women’s rights that won’t contribute to more injuries, violence and poor health outcomes for women (NewsDeeply, 2018). Let’s not allow the alcohol industry to copy Big Tobacco and use this cause to market their product.


Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (2014). Women and Alcohol. Retrieved from http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/CCSA-Women-and-Alcohol-Summary-2014-en.pdf

Public Health Agency of Canada (2015). The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2015: Alcohol Consumption in Canada. Retrieved from http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/publications/department-ministere/state-public-health-alcohol-2015-etat-sante-publique-alcool/alt/state-phac-alcohol-2015-etat-aspc-alcool-eng.pdf

NewsDeeply (2018). ‘Jane Walker’: Appropriating Women’s Rights to Sell More Booze. Retrieved from https://www.newsdeeply.com/womensadvancement/community/2018/03/08/jane-walker-appropriating-womens-rights-to-sell-more-booze