A local responsibility deal – creating community coalitions?

The Department of Health have published a toolkit for those in public health who are looking to involve local businesses in their efforts to improve the health of their population, using the public health responsibility deal as a template.

One of the health behaviours covered (as it is at the national level) is the misuse of alcohol.  Interestingly, and a bit worryingly, none of the data given to show the scale of the issue relates to underage drinking, even if one of the suggested ideas is using the Challenge 21 and Challenge 25.

However, they do say:

Local authorities may wish to use this material to review and broaden existing healthy living schemes or to create new schemes for local businesses. This material has been designed to be used flexibly, giving local authorities the opportunity to integrate this activity with existing schemes.

In the United States this sort of community coalition is much better established particularly when it comes to trying to prevent drug and alcohol misuse.  Indeed organisations like CADCA have been funded by the federal government to help local communities engender these relationships and provide training for the community organisers that are charged with developing local prevention strategies.

We visited CADCA in 2011 and were impressed by the model.   General Dean told us just how important the buy-in of local business was from their point of view.  Amongst the things he felt a partnership with business provided were; resources (not always cash), expertise in marketing and project management, and an audience to reach parents and young people.

So I’m pleased to see the concept gaining traction here, but it seems a rather limited toolkit at the moment, focused – as is the national responsibility deal – on what might be considered supply side responses rather more than on changing demand.

I think this might work best when brought together with a wider preventative strategy and with a community organising agenda which has been widely seen as offering a promising way forward for reducing harms.

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