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Home > Preventing alcohol-related harm: what communities can do.

Mongan, Deirdre (2016) Preventing alcohol-related harm: what communities can do. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 56, Winter 2016, p. 7.

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In February 2013 Galway Healthy Cities Alcohol Forum launched its strategy to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm in Galway City between 2013 and 2017.1 The Forum includes representatives from HSE West, the Western Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, Galway–Roscommon Education and Training Board, An Garda Síochána, Galway City Council, Galway City Public Participatory Network and National University of Ireland Galway.


Under the Prevention ‘pillar’ in the strategy, and in pursuit of the strategic action– to ‘communicate effective measures to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm and the benefits of undertaking these measures’ – the Forum recently published a booklet presenting the scientific evidence for various alcohol policies in order of effectiveness, and suggesting actions the community can undertake in relation to each policy.2 

1. Supply

Supply policies include reducing affordability, reducing availability and reducing marketing.

Increasing the price of alcohol reduces alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm. The main alcohol pricing policies are alcohol taxation and minimum unit pricing. Policies to reduce availability include limiting the number of outlets licensed to sell alcohol, limiting the hours of sale, setting a minimum purchase age, preventing sales to intoxicated people, and limiting drinking in public places. To reduce children’s exposure to marketing and resultant harm, statutory regulation is needed with a monitoring system that is totally independent, clear to all, accountable and involves young people.


Community action opportunities

  • Advocate for minimum pricing policy as a matter of urgency.
  • Examine the potential to reduce very cheap discounts, through voluntary agreements with alcohol sellers, while waiting for the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 to be enacted.
  • Map the number, type and density of outlets selling alcohol in the community.
  • Increase enforcement of alcohol laws through a systems approach regarding youth access, distance sales, secondary purchasing, serving intoxicated customers and drink–driving.
  • Limit drinking in public places through local bye-laws.
  • Examine current licensing laws and propose changes to benefit the community’s safety. 

2. Early intervention and treatment

There is a strong body of high-quality evidence showing that effective intervention by the health sector can prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm. Brief alcohol interventions are particularly effective among hazardous and harmful drinkers who are not seeking treatment. Psychosocial counselling for treatment-seeking patients has the strongest evidence of effectiveness and can be supported by pharmacological interventions. The precise combination of treatment depends on the severity of the problem, the goals of treatment, and the patient’s preferences.


Treatment community action opportunities

  • Provide training, support and incentives for alcohol screening and brief advice in primary care, emergency care, general hospitals and third-level colleges.
  • Identify and develop local pathways for treatment service at the individual and family level.
  • Ensure a broad base of treatment options and evidence-based interventions are available within the community.
  • Ensure the local community are aware of how to access alcohol treatment services and are encouraged to do so. 

3. Prevention and awareness

Prevention policies tend to focus on information, education and persuasion programmes. While information and education are important for the public to understand the risks associated with drinking, prevention policies have little value in reducing alcohol-related harm if implemented alone.


Community action opportunities

  • Increase the awareness of the range of alcohol-related problems in the community.
  • Promote the benefits of reducing alcohol-related problems – improved community safety and better quality of life.
  • Increase the understanding of the large evidence base of what works and what does not work in reducing alcohol-related harm.
  • Ensure the local community understand that protecting children is everyone’s responsibility and how best to achieve this. 

4. Monitoring and evaluation

It is important that a community action plan has clear outcome measures against which success can be monitored. A monitoring system should be put in place at the outset to track progress.


Community action opportunities

  • Undertake a community audit; identify needs and priorities for community.
  • Build awareness within the community so that everyone has a role to play.
  • Put a monitoring system in place.
  • When planning to deliver evidence-based interventions, ensure independent evaluation takes place to build the knowledge base in Ireland.
  • Ensure the community alcohol action group, representing the collective process, has regular roundtable discussions with all relevant sectors in the community to review progress and plan future actions.



1 Galway City strategy to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm 2013–2017. Available at

2 Hope A (2015) Research evidence to prevent alcohol-related harm: what communities can do in Ireland. Galway Healthy Cities: Galway City Alcohol Strategy to Prevent and Reduce Alcohol-Related Harm (2013-2017).

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 56, Winter 2016
January 2016
Page Range
p. 7
Health Research Board
Issue 56, Winter 2016

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