A brand-new study provides ground-breaking analysis showing that implementation of the most effective alcohol policy solutions has declined between 2015 and 2020. The researchers show that the alcohol policy best buys are “systematically neglected at the global level.”
These findings shine the spotlight on the ongoing process at the World Health Organization to develop a global alcohol action plan to “accelerate action on alcohol as public health priority.”
Movendi International calls for commitment to develop an ambitious action plan to facilitate transformative change. To that end, Movendi International suggest three solutions and describes their benefits.
New Study Illustrates Need for Ambitious WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan
People and communities from countries worldwide want to protect their loved ones from alcohol harm. We all want to live in healthy and safe, inclusive, and resilient communities. That is why most people support alcohol policy making to prevent and reduce harm caused by the alcohol industry.
The problem is that in the last five years, alcohol policy making has gotten worse, not better. A brand-new study published in The Lancet provides ground-breaking analysis.
Alcohol policy systematically neglected
It shows that the implementation of the most effective alcohol policy solutions has declined between 2015 and 2020, while it improved for tobacco policies. In fact, the alcohol policy best buys are “systematically neglected at the global level.”
- Most policies targeting alcohol harm have not been fully implemented in 2020. Often, they are not even partially implemented.
- Alcohol advertising is among the best buy measures that are the least widely implemented.
- And in many regions alcohol is becoming more affordable, due to a failure to implement public health-oriented alcohol excise taxes.
We think there are two main problems leading to this situation,” says Kristina Sperkova, International President of Movendi International, and the leader of Movendi Slovakia.
Firstly, there is a vast lack of technical capacity in countries, compounded by a serious shortfall of technical support and technical tools from the World Health Organizations for the development of high-impact alcohol policy solutions. The SAFER technical package and initiative has only just arrived.
Secondly, there is a serious lack of funding for alcohol policy development work, contributing to scattered, and often piecemeal approach to alcohol policy in countries and regions.”Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International
Alcohol industry interference is major driver of in-action
There is one major factor that drives both these problems: alcohol industry interference. Researchers find that alcohol industry interference is a major driver of non-implementation of WHO-recommended alcohol policy solutions. “For every unit increase in corporate permeation, implementation decreased by 5%.”
Alcohol industry interference is pervasive and comes in many forms,” says Pubudu Sumanasekara, Executive Director of the Alcohol and Drug Information Center (ADIC) in Sri Lanka and International Vice President of Movendi International.
The effects of alcohol industry interference are corrosive and often destructive for evidence-based alcohol policy making. Alcohol industry interference creates unnecessary costs in the efforts to tackle alcohol harm, puts immense pressure on political leadership, and undermines the capacity of institutions to do their job and respond to societal needs.”Pubudu Sumanasekara, Executive Director, ADIC – Sri Lanka, and International Vice President, Movendi International
Historic opportunity for transformative change
Civil society and community groups have called for transformative change. Change that puts the people in the center of the response to the harm caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry; change that accelerates action for alcohol policy development; change that starts as soon as possible.
In this dire situation, the process at the World Health Organization to develop a new global alcohol action plan is immensely important. In fact, the data from the new Lancet study illustrates why an ambitious and bold global alcohol action plan is urgently needed.
Movendi International outlines three key solutions for the way forward.
What is needed now is a global alcohol action plan that focuses on country impact through facilitating the development and implementation of the alcohol policy Best Buys. The SAFER initiative plays a critical role here,” says Ms. Sperkova.
Secondly, stronger commitment from governments to invest in domestic resource mobilization through alcohol taxation is needed. We also need scaled commitment from high-income countries to provide adequate development assistance funds for low-income countries to protect their societies from the harms caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry. To facilitate dedicated leadership and political commitment, the global alcohol policy infrastructure needs to be improved. We need a global ministerial conference and a joint global inter-agency initiative for alcohol taxation.Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International
Our third key solution is the ensure much better, more coherent protections against alcohol industry interference in public health alcohol policy making,” says Mr Sumanasekara.
How this has been done in tobacco prevention and control is an important lesson to protect alcohol prevention and control from conflicts of interest.
These are all solutions that the people support, and that our societies urgently need.
The WHO global alcohol action plan is a unique opportunity to facilitate change by learning the lessons from recent years and applying that knowledge.”Pubudu Sumanasekara, Executive Director, ADIC – Sri Lanka, and International Vice President, Movendi International
The benefits of an ambitious global alcohol action plan are that billions more people and their communities will be protected from the harm caused by the alcohol industry; proven alcohol policy solutions are powerful catalysts to promote development for all, including health, social, and economic progress; and a benefit of ambitious alcohol policy action is to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Notes to the editor
More about the study
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally. The researchers aimed to analyse trends in implementation of WHO-recommended population-level policies and associations with national geopolitical characteristics.
On average, countries had fully implemented a third of the 19 policies in 2020. Mean implementation had increased from 39% in 2015 to 45.9% in 2017 and 47% in 2020. Implementation was lowest for policies relating to alcohol, tobacco, and unhealthy foods, and had reversed for a third of all policies. Low-income and less democratic countries had the lowest policy implementation.
For every unit increase in corporate permeation, implementation decreased by 5%, and for every 1% increase in NCD mortality burden, implementation increased by 0.9%. Democracy was positively associated with policy implementation, but only in countries with low corporate permeation.
Implementation of NCD policies is uneven, but broadly improving over time. Urgent action is needed to boost implementation of policies targeting corporate vectors of NCDs, and to support countries facing high corporate permeation.
Luke N Allen, Simon Wigley, Hampus Holmer, Implementation of non-communicable disease policies from 2015 to 2020: a geopolitical analysis of 194 countries, The Lancet Global Health, Volume 9, Issue 11, 2021, Pages e1528-e1538, ISSN 2214-109X, https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00359-4.
More about the WHO global alcohol action plan
From the World Health Organization: Towards an action plan (2022 – 2030) to effectively implement the Global Alcohol Strategy.
In February 2020, the WHO’s Executive Board took a unanimous decision to request the Secretariat to develop a global alcohol action plan. Member States agreed that the global alcohol burden is a “public health priority” and therefore requested “accelerated action” on alcohol harm.
Concretely, the Executive Board, in its decision, requested the WHO Director-General to:
- Develop an action plan (2022-2030) to effectively implement the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy as a public health priority, in consultation with Member States and relevant stakeholders, for consideration by the 75th World Health Assembly through the 150th session of the WHO Executive Board in 2022.
- Develop a technical report on cross-border alcohol marketing, advertising and promotion issues, including targeting of youth and adolescents, before the 150th session of the WHO Executive Board, which could contribute to the development of the action plan.
- Adequately resource the work on alcohol harm.
The importance of that decision and the renewed commitment to tackle alcohol harm as public health priority, was underlined by a landmark study, released in October 2020. The Global Burden of Disease study for 2019 found that failure in tackling preventable non-communicable diseases has made the world more vulnerable to COVID-19. The study highlighted worrying data about alcohol’s contribution to the global burden of disease.
Movendi International and other civil society partners’ key recommendations for the draft global alcohol action plan
Long months of pandemic lockdown have only exacerbated the harms due to alcohol experienced by billions of people worldwide. Now, WHO is in the process of developing a new alcohol action plan, in an effort to re-energize a stagnant process and overcome a “lost decade” of little progress on alcohol policies. Can it make a difference?
About Movendi International
With 130 Member Organization from 52 countries, Movendi International is the largest independent global movement for development through alcohol prevention. We unite, strengthen and empower civil society to tackle alcohol as serious obstacle to development on personal, community, societal and global level.