Drinkaware's existence not surprisingly divides opinions; some health groups are sceptical of indsutry led intiatives, or raise concerns over a policy focus on education based approaches. Earlier this year an independent audit gave Drinkaware a mixed review of its impact over recent years.
Regardless, Drinkaware have the lion's share of the 'alcohol awareness market' with a far greater web presence than say the NHS Choices alcohol pages. The report highlights four million people visited the Drinkaware website in 2012 and front-line public services used 1 million of their factsheets, unit and calorie wheels and unit measure cups.
Drinkaware have worked on a number of key themes for their activities. For 'Helping parents delay the age of their child’s first drink', Drinkare state their long term goal is to raise the average age of first drink to 15, highlighting the CMO guidance advising an alcohol-free childhood.
Drinkaware report that after seeing the Your Kids and Alcohol campaign, 44% of parents felt they had a successful conversation with their child about alcohol. 31,000 people visited the parents section of the website and 100,000 parental advice leaflets were distributed.
The report states the age of a young person’s first supervised drink has increased from 12.9 years in 2009 to 13.4 years in 2012. The average age of their first unsupervised drink has also increased, from 13.8 years in 2009 to 14.7 years in 2012. Of course this can not be directly attributed to Drinkaware activity, especially since overall alcohol use by 10-15 years has been falling since 2003.
For 'Changing adults’ daily drinking habits', Drinkaware's aim was to increase
knowledge of the unit guidelines and the health risks amongst those regularly exceeding them. Drinkers were encouraged to sign up to MyDrinkaware, an online tool that tracks units and the calories in drinks.
The report states 181,000 people signed up to MyDrinkaware and that "even limited use can have a positive impact on consumer understanding of the unit guidelines..". Reported alcohol consumption among active MyDrinakware users fell from an average of 5 units per day to 3.9 units", although it does not state how many were active users.
For 'challenging young adults’ attitudes to getting drunk', Drinkaware's goal was to shift attitudes to drinking and reduce the public acceptability of drunkenness. However it says:
"While results showed good reported adoption of our tips and advice, young people’s attitudes and behaviour around responsible drinking have proved difficult to shift and remain unchanged overall. In fact, the proportion of young adults who believe you need to get drunk to have a good time has gone up."
Finally, the report identifies actions around 'Developing strong partnerships', as well as detailing Drinkaware's medical advisory panel, board and funding position.
Drinkaware have had a new Chief Executive, Elaine Hindel, since earlier this year - see a recent interview here (pdf). Hindel will no doubt want to oversee further evidence of Drinkaware's impact, and perhaps equally as challenging, further acceptance from the health community of their role in supporting 'responsible drinking'.