Processes, practices and influence: a mixed methods study of public health contributions to alcohol licensing in local government

REYNOLDS, Joanna, MCGRATH, M, ENGEN, J, PASHMI, G, ANDREWS, M, LIM, J and LOCK, K (2018). Processes, practices and influence: a mixed methods study of public health contributions to alcohol licensing in local government. BMC Public Health, 18, p. 1385.

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Background: Public health in England has opportunities to reduce alcohol-related harms via shaping the availability and accessibility of alcohol through the licensing function in local government. While the constraints of licensing legislation have been recognised, what is currently little understood are the day-to-day realities of how public health practitioners enact the licensing role, and how they can influence the local alcohol environment. Methods: To address this, a mixed-methods study was conducted across 24 local authorities in Greater London between 2016 and 17. Data collection involved ethnographic observation of public health practitioners' alcohol licensing work (in eight local authorities); a survey of public health practitioners (n = 18); interviews with licensing stakeholders (n = 10); and analysis of public health licensing data from five local authorities. Fieldnotes and interview transcripts were analysed thematically, and quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics. Results: Results indicated that some public health teams struggle to justify the resources required to engage with licensing processes when they perceive little capacity to influence licensing decisions. Other public health teams consider the licensing role as important for shaping the local alcohol environment, and also as a strategic approach for positioning public health within the council. Practitioners use different processes to assess the potential risks of licence applications but also the potential strengths of their objections, to determine when and how actions should be taken. Identifying the direct influence of public health on individual licences is challenging, but the study revealed how practitioners did achieve some level of impact, for example through negotiation with applicants. Conclusions: This study shows public health impact following alcohol licensing work is difficult to measure in terms of reducing alcohol-related harms, which poses challenges for justifying this work amid resource constraints. However, there is potential added value of the licensing role in strategic positioning of public health in local government to influence broader determinants of health.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alcohol; England; Ethnography; Licensing; Local government; Mixed methods; Process; Public health; 1117 Public Health And Health Services; Public Health
Identification Number:
Page Range: p. 1385
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2019 14:49
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 07:04

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