The Public Health Responsibility deal: has a public-private partnership brought about action on alcohol reduction?

Addiction. 2015 Aug;110(8):1217-25. doi: 10.1111/add.12892. Epub 2015 Mar 26.


Background and aims: The Public Health Responsibility Deal (RD) in England is a public-private partnership involving voluntary pledges between industry, government and other organizations, with the aim of improving public health. This paper aims to evaluate what action resulted from the RD alcohol pledges.

Methods: We analysed publically available data on organizations' plans and progress towards achieving key alcohol pledges of the RD. We assessed the extent to which activities pledged by signatories could have been brought about by the RD, as opposed to having happened anyway (the counterfactual), using a validated coding scheme designed for the purpose.

Results: Progress reports were submitted by 92% of signatories in 2013 and 75% of signatories in 2014, and provided mainly descriptive feedback rather than quantifiable performance metrics. Approximately 14% of 2014 progress reports were identical to those presented in 2013. Most organizations (65%) signed pledges that involved actions to which they appear to have been committed already, regardless of the RD. A small but influential group of alcohol producers and retailers reported taking measures to reduce alcohol units available for consumption in the market. However, where reported, these measures appear to involve launching and promoting new lower-alcohol products rather than removing units from existing products.

Conclusions: The RD is unlikely to have contributed significantly to reducing alcohol consumption, as most alcohol pledge signatories appear to have committed to actions that they would have undertaken anyway, regardless of the RD. Irrespective of this, there is considerable scope to improve the clarity of progress reports and reduce the variability of metrics provided by RD pledge signatories.

Keywords: Alcohol; evaluation; pledge; public health; public-private partnership; voluntary agreement.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / analysis
  • Ethanol / analysis
  • Food Industry
  • Goals
  • Government
  • Health Plan Implementation
  • Health Policy
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Marketing
  • Organizational Policy
  • Product Labeling
  • Program Evaluation
  • Public Health*
  • Public-Private Sector Partnerships*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Underage Drinking / prevention & control


  • Ethanol