Alcohol Use Disorders (92) The alcohol industry controls the narrative to undermine alcohol control policies (2) Q4 Do public health professionals and policymakers have adequate knowledge? (1)

26 February, 2024

Dear HIFA colleagues,

Welcome to week 4 of our deep-dive discussion. Thank you for all your 91 contributions to date. You can review them here:

Background information:

To contribute, send email to

We now turn our attention to Question 4:

"Do public health professionals and policymakers have adequate knowledge to prevent and treat alcohol use disorders in their country? What are current national policies and what more can be done to fully implement those policies?"

Eduardo's latest message (Alcohol Use Disorders (91)) suggests that policymakers are manipulated by the alcohol industry. The implication is that policymakers are manipulable by the industry whether they (policymakers) have adequate knowledge or not. There is a matter of how easily the policymakers can be manipulated. If they (policymakers) have inadequate knowledge and understanding about the harms of alcohol (health, societal, environmental, economic...) then they *might* be more able to stand up to attempted manipulation. What do you think?

Adequate knowledge about alcohol among public health professionals and policymakers may be a prerequisite for evidence-informed policymaking, but knowledge alone is not sufficient. Even the architects of the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy - by definition the global experts on alcohol - were apparently manipulated by the industry, as indicated by Eduardo, who said:

'The term “harmful use”, which is included in the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy, is questioned by some, because it is a term that is not based on evidence, and that in reality, resulted from *a political commitment to ensure that approve the strategy itself* [my emphasis]. They see it as a victory for the big alcohol lobby in adopting the WHO's Global Alcohol Strategy, because they argue that the term is a key strategy for promoting ambiguity about the alcohol harms and related regulatory solutions. (4)'

Looking at reference 4, I was shocked to see how much pervasive influence the alcohol industry has had in the development of WHO's Global Alcohol Strategy.

[4] referes to a news article. The author notes: 'In addition to the concept of “harmful use of alcohol” this paragraph of giving the alcohol industry any role in tackling alcohol harm is the second big flaw of the Global Alcohol Strategy. The alcohol industry, exactly like the tobacco industry, should be kept at bay from any engagement with WHO and from any role whatsoever in implementing the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy.'

The article describes how the alcohol industry wants to be seen as a partner and being part of the solution (while at the same time resisting any policy or legislative changes that might reduce consumption).

The WHO Global Action Plan itself can be downloaded from the WHO wesbite:

Curiously, despite being dated 2022, the only version I could find was a 'pre-print copy'. Can anyone find the final version?

We look forward to learn more about the role of the alcohol industry in manipulating global, national and local policy.

Best wishes, Neil

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: