Who's driving drink policy? alcohol control and multilevel governance

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    Abstract

    Alcohol is an important economic and cultural commodity. It also represents a significant public health problem. Alcohol is the third greatest risk factor for the global disease burden even though half of the global population abstain. Currently alcohol control strategies are inadequate and unable to combat the health, social and economic problems caused by a legal drug that has become more widely available, more affordable and promoted aggressively.

    This thesis considers how alcohol control policy is governed, developed and implemented at global, European, UK and Scottish policy levels with specific focus on the role of the alcohol industry in this area. Contemporary modes of governance are increasingly characterised by a multi-agency partnership approach where unelected stakeholders, including corporate partners, contribute to the development and implementation of policy and of action out with policy. The research investigates the role of the alcohol industry within discourses and action in efforts to reduce alcohol related harm. It aims to identify alcohol industry action at global, European, UK and Scottish levels of authority in order to offer an overview of the extent of action and in turn its influence on policy discourses.

    The research provides an analysis of the alcohol industry as a political operator. The alcohol industry engages with, and in some respects is, a stakeholder active within public health policy circles in relation to alcohol control. This engagement spans, science, research, corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, lobbying and direct engagement within official policy circles.

    The thesis uses the alcohol industry as a case study that highlights a need for research on how influence is wielded by corporate interests within policy circles. There is acknowledgement in various theoretical accounts on governance that changing modes of governance have resulted in the creation of a space for non-state actors within policy circles. However, thereafter, the role of corporate actors is habitually underestimated and even overlooked all together. The argument presented here is that the role of powerful economic interests is rapidly gaining significance as a factor in policy making. This must be explored further in order to ascertain the extent of the influence and the ways in which economic actors exert influence.

    Methodologically the research examines policy documents, and industry communications as well as adopting an investigative approach to the strategies and agendas of a variety of policy stakeholders. The outcome is a narrative derived from a synthesis of existing sources that explores the area of alcohol control policy which focuses on the involvement of corporate stakeholders with a clear conflict of interest within the process of developing health policy in relation to alcohol.

    The results indicate that the influence of corporate actors represents a significant and growing threat to the development and implementation of effective evidence based alcohol control policy. Overall the research is intended to make a contribution to academic and public debates on governance and to support public health efforts to reduce alcohol related harm. It attempts to explore the accumulation of corporate action over multiple levels of authority and to describe and evaluate the effects of this accumulative action on public health policy in relation to alcohol.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Bath
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Miller, David, Supervisor, External person
    Award date14 Feb 2015
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2015

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