Drinkaware, the industry funded alcohol education organisation, has responded to the independent report released last year which gave it a 'mixed' review. As well as appointing a new chair and trustees, Drinkaware says it is delivering a number of further changes and projects in response to the recommendations - full response and activities here [pdf].
As well as a new Chair and trustees, Drinkaware has established new senior positions to lead on marketing, partnerships and measurement of impact. The appointments reflect the key issues raised by the independent report, namely perceptions from stakeholders of a lack of an evidence base to support its work, a perception of industry influence and weak stakeholder engagement.
The press release states Drinkaware "has since commissioned significant new research from independent sources to help inform strategy and to focus its activities to have the most impact on harmful drinking." It states it will also establish "a new strategy for engaging with all stakeholders, including NGOs and public health but also including industry and potential commercial partners" and claims "almost all of the auditors’ recommendations have been accepted and have either been implemented or are in progress."
However fully addressing concerns of some health groups may be an impossible task for Drinkaware, whose industry funding gives it a fundamental position of distrust. Last year a journal piece Be aware of Drinkaware claimed that "Drinkaware was devised by the Portman Group to serve industry interests" and warned that "working with, and for, industry bodies such as Drinkaware ... serves only to legitimize corporate efforts to promote partnership as a means of averting evidence-based alcohol policies."
Last year's independent report had also highlighted concerning findings from an unpublished study by London Southbank University and Kings College London (Moss, Dyer et al) which found that exposure to Drinkaware posters actually appeared to increase alcohol consumption. Drinkaware's response says it has begun an independent review into the harm caused by drunkenness, to be informed by its recent call for evidence to inform a new binge drinking strategy. Last year Drinkaware had also published a review of its 2012 activities, claiming progress on a number of its targets.
So like it or not, Drinkaware looks here to stay, and set to continue to dominate the 'alcohol education' market above NHS Choices alcohol pages or Chage4Life drink swap. For signs of progress on its ambitions to demonstrate an evidence base and better engage with the health community, or otherwise ... watch this space.