Aims: To review the effectiveness of responsible drinking messages (RDMs). Methods: We searched PsycINFO, MEDLINE and Google Scholar to June 2016 for studies evaluating the effectiveness of RDMs. Only eight studies met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Due to a small number of search results and broad inconsistency in methods and outcome measures, quantitative synthesis was not possible so a narrative summary of findings was conducted.

Results: A review of findings from these articles suggested a disjointed approach in terms of the format and content of RDMs evaluated, as well as the dependent variables used to judge their effectiveness. An overall pattern emerged suggesting that RDMs may have beneficial effects across various outcome measures, including reducing prospective alcohol use. However, due to the inconsistent approach to both the development and evaluation of RDMs, it was not possible to draw any clear conclusions in terms of effectiveness, or indeed the potential size of any effects.

Conclusions: A systematic approach to the development and evaluation of RDMs is recommended to ensure that a clearer evidence base is established in this area, particularly in light of the substantial public funds which are often spent on RDM campaigns.

Short summary: A systematic review of studies evaluating the effectiveness of responsible drinking message campaigns reveals an inconsistent approach to message design and evaluation. Findings of the review suggest the need for a more consistent approach to aid in the development of a clearer evidence base in this area.

Published in General Health

BACKGROUND: Hazardous and harmful alcohol use and high blood pressure are central risk factors related to premature non-communicable disease (NCD) mortality worldwide. A reduction in the prevalence of both risk factors has been suggested as a route to reach the global NCD targets. This study aims to highlight that screening and interventions for hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use in primary healthcare can contribute substantially to achieving the NCD targets.

METHODS: A consensus conference based on systematic reviews, meta-analyses, clinical guidelines, experimental studies, and statistical modelling which had been presented and discussed in five preparatory meetings, was undertaken. Specifically, we modelled changes in blood pressure distributions and potential lives saved for the five largest European countries if screening and appropriate intervention rates in primary healthcare settings were increased. Recommendations to handle alcohol-induced hypertension in primary healthcare settings were derived at the conference, and their degree of evidence was graded.

RESULTS: Screening and appropriate interventions for hazardous alcohol use and use disorders could lower blood pressure levels, but there is a lack in implementing these measures in European primary healthcare. Recommendations included (1) an increase in screening for hypertension (evidence grade: high), (2) an increase in screening and brief advice on hazardous and harmful drinking for people with newly detected hypertension by physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals (evidence grade: high), (3) the conduct of clinical management of less severe alcohol use disorders for incident people with hypertension in primary healthcare (evidence grade: moderate), and (4) screening for alcohol use in hypertension that is not well controlled (evidence grade: moderate). The first three measures were estimated to result in a decreased hypertension prevalence and hundreds of saved lives annually in the examined countries.

CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of the outlined recommendations could contribute to reducing the burden associated with hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use and thus to achievement of the NCD targets. Implementation should be conducted in controlled settings with evaluation, including, but not limited to, economic evaluation.

Published in General Health

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Studies that report the relationship between alcohol consumption and disease risk have predominantly operationalized drinking according to a single baseline measure. The resulting assumption of longitudinal stability may be simplistic and complicate interpretation of risk estimates. This study aims to describe changes to the volume of consumption during the adult life-course according to baseline categories of drinking. DESIGN: A prospective observational study.

SETTING: United Kingdom.

PARTICIPANTS: A cohort of British civil servants totalling 6838 men and 3372 women aged 34-55 years at baseline, followed for a mean 19.1 (standard deviation = 9.5) years.

MEASUREMENTS: The volume of weekly alcohol consumption was estimated from data concerning the frequency and number of drinks consumed. Baseline categories were defined: non-current drinkers, infrequent drinkers, 0.1-50.0 g/week, 50.1-100.0 g/week, 100.1-150.0 g/week, 150.1-250.0 g/week and >250.0 g/week. For women, the highest category was defined as > 100.0 g/week. Baseline frequency was derived as 'daily or almost daily' and 'not daily or almost daily'. Trajectories were estimated within baseline categories using growth curve models.

FINDINGS: Trajectories differed between men and women, but were relatively stable within light-to-moderate categories of baseline consumption. Drinking was least stable within the highest categories of baseline consumption (men: > 250.0 g/week; women: > 100.0 g/week), declining by 47.0 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 40.7, 53.2] and 16.8 g/week (95% CI = 12.6, 21.0), respectively, per 10-year increase in age. These declines were not a consequence of sudden transitions to complete abstention. Rates of decline appear greatest in older age, with trajectories converging toward moderate volumes.

CONCLUSION: Among UK civil servants, consumption within baseline drinking categories is generally stable during the life-course, except among heavier baseline drinkers, for whom intakes decline with increasing age. This shift does not appear to be driven by transitions to non-drinking. Cohorts of older people may be at particular risk of misclassifying former heavy drinkers as moderate consumers of alcohol.

Published in General Health

OBJECTIVES: Alcohol is a significant source of dietary calories and is a contributor to obesity. Industry pledges to provide calorie information to consumers have been cited as reasons for not introducing mandatory ingredient labelling. As part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal (RD) in England, alcohol retailers and producers committed to providing consumers with information on the calorie content of alcoholic drinks. This study examines what was achieved following this commitment and considers the implications for current industry commitments to provide information on alcohol calories.

STUDY DESIGN: Analysis of RD pledge delivery plans and progress reports. Assessment of calorie information in supermarkets and in online stores.

METHODS: (i) Analysis of the content of pledge delivery plans and annual progress reports of RD signatories to determine what action they had committed to, and had taken, to provide calorie information. (ii) Analysis of the availability of calorie information on product labels; in UK supermarkets; and on online shopping sites and websites.

RESULTS: No information was provided in any of 55 stores chosen to represent all the main UK supermarkets. Calorie information was not routinely provided on supermarkets' websites, or on product labels.

CONCLUSIONS: One of the stated purposes of the RD was to provide consumers with the information to make informed health-related choices, including providing information on the calorie content of alcoholic drinks. This study indicates that this did not take place to any significant extent. The voluntary implementation of alcohol calorie labelling by industry needs to continue to be carefully monitored to determine whether and how it is done.

Published in General Health
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