Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: A Review of Recent Alcohol Policy Developments in Europe
This paper briefly reviews the history of alcohol policy development in Europe leading to the current consensus in the health field on strategic priorities. There is a review of recent policy developments in selected European countries, both EU and non-EU members.
Narrative review of published journal articles, publications from WHO, and other health organisations and government publications.
The implementation of the WHO policy priorities has been variable across Europe. At EU level, there has been a recent pattern of trade considerations taking priority over health and a disinvestment in alcohol research and advocacy. Among EU member states new implementation of WHO strategies have been limited to a few smaller countries and regions. In Russia, there have been considerable falls in mortality following the introduction of controls on price, availability and marketing.
The implementation of WHO strategy at national level in Europe is highly dependent on the local political circumstances. Where there is concern about alcohol harm and political will, the WHO strategic priorities have been highly influential.
In order to build public and political support for prevention, alcohol policy advocates should ensure that there is good data on trends within age, gender, and income groups and develop policies to respond to these trends.
The concept of proportionate universalism, where interventions are understood to have a broad population effect but the effect is greater on the groups most in need, may be more useful than the traditional alcohol policy field conceptualizations of whole population and targeted measures.