The International Alcohol Control Study (the IAC Study) is the first ever international cohort study of alcohol use and alcohol policy relevant behaviours. The overall objective is to measure the impacts of national or state level alcohol control policies.
The IAC study began in 2011 as a collaboration between New Zealand, England, Scotland, South Korea and Thailand. Since then, the number of countries participating in the study has expanded to include Australia, Canada, Mongolia, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, South Africa, Vietnam and Turkey (a current total of 13 participating countries). In 2014 three African countries (Benin, Kenya and Uganda) joined the IAC project utilising one of the IAC research tools, the Alcohol Environment Protocol, to assess the alcohol policy environment.
IAC research tools
The IAC study has developed several research tools. The first is a longitudinal survey allowing for the assessment of change over time among drinkers within countries, and for comparisons between countries. The survey measures alcohol consumption, perceptions of alcohol affordability, availability, and enforcement and support for policy. An innovative part of the survey is the inclusion of questions about behaviours and attitudes which can be affected by policy changes and which mediate consumption. These include prices paid, time and place of purchase, and exposure to and resonance of marketing.
A second research tool, The Alcohol Environment Protocol (AEP), monitors the alcohol environment in each country. The AEP was based on administrative and commercial data sets, key informant interviews and observational studies to assess the status of effective alcohol control policies in the following areas: alcohol availability, pricing and taxation of alcohol products, alcohol marketing, and drink driving enforcement. These data have been used to create the IAC Policy Index and examine the relationship with survey responses from drinkers in participating countries.
The IAC COVID-19 project (2020-2021) was an online social media survey developed as a rapid response to COVID-19. COVID-19 restrictions have had considerable impacts on the availability of alcohol in different countries affecting the way people are accessing and consuming alcohol. The international collaboration included 14 high and middle-income countries and to date includes over 11,000 respondents. Participating countries are: Mexico, Chile, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Turkey, Canada, USA, New Zealand.
A further iteration of the AEP has been developed which included a section monitoring access to brief intervention and treatment to create the IAC – SAFER tool (2022). A module assessing alcohol industry penetration in the policy environment has also been added and data collection using this tool is underway.
Supporting effective alcohol policy
The IAC study has established a research platform to monitor strong, evidence-based implementation of alcohol control policies. This is timely in the context of the WHO Global Strategy to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol (2010), the UN Declaration on the NCD epidemic (2011). The dissemination of the WHO led SAFER package and the Global Alcohol Action Plan was endorsed by the WHA in 2022. The IAC project disseminates its research findings to the global alcohol control community, including researchers, policy makers, and advocates.
The development of the IAC study was generously supported by the Health Promotion Agency of New Zealand and the co-ordination role undertaken by the SHORE & Whariki Research Centre has been supported by Massey University, IDRC Canada, IHPP and FORUT. Each country gained funding for its own participation and sponsors are shown on country pages.
New countries welcome
The SHORE & Whariki Research Centre is keen to collaborate with researchers in countries wishing to join current developments of the IAC study. Survey instruments, software and protocol for analysis have been developed in collaboration with participating countries, and tools can be made available for use by other countries wishing to join the study. The core survey consists of questions to be used by all IAC participating countries, and country specific questions can be added. For ease of use and to ensure accurate data collection, the survey needs to be computer assisted.The AEP is also an online tool.
It is a requirement of participation in the IAC study that researchers do not have conflict of interest and are not funded by or collaborating with the alcohol industry.
For further information on the IAC study, please contact:
Professor Sally Casswell Co -director SHORE & Whariki Research Centre
College of Health, Massey University New Zealand firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Alcohol Control Policy Study thanks the following granting agencies for their financial support