Public Health England (PHE) has published its 7 priorities for the next 5 years, with 'reducing harmful drinking' listed after action on smoking and obesity.
The document highlights PHE's role in actioning change to address 'an epidemic of largely preventable long-term diseases' amid a growing burden on the future of the NHS.
PHE says it has 'looked to the evidence to identify where we should focus our efforts', which involves both promoting healthier behaviours and mobilising support for broader action on improving the public’s health.
Public support is seen as particularly relevant in terms of minimum unit pricing (MUP) which public opinion appears split over. PHE says it will continue to set out the evidence base for MUP and also look at the potential of including public health as a fifth licensing objective.
Under its alcohol priority section, PHE says over the next 18 months it will:
- use alcohol as the trailblazer for a new whole system approach that establishes what works and is clear on the return on investment, enabling government, local authorities and the NHS to invest with confidence in evidence based policies, prevention and treatment interventions
- produce an independent report for government on the public health impacts of alcohol and on evidence-based solutions
- produce a framework on liver disease outlining public health actions to tackle liver disease, including alcohol
- expand the Longer Lives web tool to include indicators on alcohol treatment and recovery, and to identify variations in performance
- launch Liver Disease Profiles [see here] to support local authority health and wellbeing boards to understand liver disease and its risk factors in their area and, in turn, design effective local population level interventions
- continue to set out the evidence base for the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol
- consider the evidence for the inclusion of health as a licensing objective
PHE, Government & alcohol policy
PHE's current year priorities had only outlined a limited specific focus on alcohol, and also identified alcohol as a 'low priority' within its social marketing plans. Of course PHE have supported local action with the updating of the Local Alcohol Profiles and the recent Liver Disease Profiles, and have taken over the former NTA's remit around substance misuse treatment - see national alcohol treatment data here.
Beyond PHE's work, the controversial Responsibility Deal has been the main focus of Government alcohol policy given the minimum pricing u-turn. With the upcoming general election next year, the 'APPG' parliamentary group recently released a manifesto urging political parties to adopt ten key alcohol policies. A leaked report earlier in the year suggested Labour will be committing to MUP.