The perils of partnership: Interactions between public health England, Drinkaware, and the Portman Group Surrounding the drink free days campaign

Nason Maani, May C.I. van Schalkwyk, Mark Petticrew*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: There is growing evidence that the alcohol industry seeks to obstruct public health policies that might affect future alcohol sales. In parallel, the alcohol industry funds organisations that engage in “responsible drinking” campaigns. Evidence is growing that the content and delivery of such campaigns serves industry, rather than public health interests, yet these organizations continue to be the subject of partnerships with government health departments. This study aimed to examine the nature and potential impacts of such partnerships by analysing the practices of the alcohol industry-funded charity Drinkaware during the establishment of the Drink Free Days campaign. Methods: A case study based on an inductive analysis of documents revealed by freedom of information (FoI) request regarding communications between Drinkaware, Public Health England (PHE), and the Portman Group, in the years running up to, and during, the Drink Free Days campaign, a partnership between alcohol industry-funded charity Drinkware, and PHE. Results: This study reveals a range of less visible, system-level effects of such partnerships for government departments and civil society. The tensions observed, as exhibited by discrepancies between internal and external communications, the emphasis on managing and mitigating the perception of negative consequences, and the links to wider alcohol industry initiatives and bodies, suggest the need for wider considerations of organizational conflicts of interest, and of possible indirect, harmful consequences to policy-making. These include the marginalization of other civil society voices, the displacing of more effective policy options, and strategic alignment with other industry lobbying activities. Conclusion: The findings have implications for how public health practitioners and health organisations might better weigh the potential trade-offs of partnership in the context of health promotion campaigns.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8245
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Health Policy and Management
Issue number1
Early online date9 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • alcohol
  • commercial determinants of Health
  • health policy
  • partnership
  • public health
  • UK


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