National policies for the reduction of alcohol harm: a behaviour change wheel guided content analysis of policy papers in the UK

  • Power, Brian (PI)

Project: Research

Project Details


Policy Paper Selection

Websites of national and research institutes working for all national-level health policy papers regarding alcohol harm reduction will be systematically searched by the principal investigator (BP) and co investigator (DV). Inclusion criteria for policy papers will apply. To be included policy papers should 1) be at the national level (i.e. not local or international); 2) be related to alcohol harm reduction and 3) be the most recent version of the policy paper. Finally, clinical practice guidelines and documents that meet the inclusion criteria outlined above will be selected.

Content Analysis

Policy recommendations will be coded in terms of intervention functions and policy categories using a Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW) and theory-informed behaviour change techniques (BCTs) using a behaviour change technique taxonomy (BCCT) by two reviewers (BP and DV) independently. The BCW is a synthesis of 19 behaviour change frameworks. The BCW has three layers: an inner behaviour system layer, a middle intervention function layer and an outer policy category layer. The inner behaviour system layer incorporates an overarching model of behaviour, COM-B (capability (C), opportunity (O), motivation (M), and behaviour (B)). COM-B postulates that three factors are necessary and sufficient prerequisites for the performance of a specified behaviour such as alcohol consumption: psychological and physical capability (i.e. the individual’s psychological and physical capacity to engage in alcohol consumption, including the necessary knowledge and skills), social and physical opportunity (i.e. all the factors that lie outside the individual that make alcohol consumption possible or prompt it), and reflective and automatic motivation (i.e. all the brain processes that energise and direct behaviour, including goals, emotional responses, analytical decision-making, and habitual processes). Furthermore, opportunity and capability can influence motivation, and behaviour might influence all the other components. The middle layer includes nine intervention functions which refer to activities that can change behaviours which are determined by the different COM-B layer. The outer layer contains policy categories which refer to the decisions made by authorities that can help to support and enact the intervention functions contained within the second layer. Given this structure, the BCW helps organise and identify intervention types (‘intervention functions’) and policy strategies (‘policy categories’) that are likely to be effective in changing the determinants (COM-B) of target behaviours such as alcohol consumption.

The Behaviour Change Techniques Taxonomy version 1 (BCTTv1) consists of 93 BCTs and will be used to provide a more in depth and explicit characterisation of policy recommendations. If the alcohol harm reduction recommendations of a policy can not be coded with any of these specified codes, they will be coded as ‘’other’’ with details provided. BP and DV will compare coding of policy recommendations and differences will be resolved through further discussion, analysis, consensus or consultation with a third reviewer.

No ethical approval will be required.

Layman's description

What this project intends to find out?

The project intends to identify behaviour change strategies contained in UK policy papers on alcohol harm reduction.

Why it is innovative?

This is the first time the content of UK policy papers on alcohol harm reduction will be investigated using behaviour change tools. Such an approach is likely to provide a unique evidence base and identify gaps with regard to behavioural science evidence in UK alcohol harm reduction policy . By drawing upon recent advances in behavioural science, benefits of this work will extend to improvements in the quality and efficiency of UK policy recommendations on alcohol harm reduction.

Why it is important?

Given the increasing focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of policy recommendations, the content of UK policy on alcohol harm reduction is a particularly important topic to consider. Alcohol harm reduction policy of the UK has made great strides over the past decade and a wealth of outcomes on alcohol harm reduction has been reported. Despite this, UK policy documents have rarely been investigated with regard to their assumed mechanisms of action for changing behaviour. Devoting more attention to the underlying assumptions regarding alcohol consumption changes may help to identify neglected aspects in current UK policy on alcohol harm reduction. Assessing the content of policy papers on alcohol harm reduction is particularly essential if we are to better understand what works for reducing alcohol harm and why. Such information is a prerequisite for the design of effective strategies to improve alcohol harm reduction, thus helping to enhance the impact of policy papers.

Key findings

This proposal will produce novel research, publishable in high impact journals in health psychology, public health and nutrition and dietetics. One peer-reviewed research article from the project will be produced for a specific high impact journal. The manuscript will be submitted to the Annual Review of Public Health (2015 Impact Factor 10.228) or International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity (2015 Impact Factor 4.396).

Outputs of this research will also identify solutions for applied problems such as harmful drinking with relevance for National Health Service (NHS) clinicians and policy makers. Therefore, the findings of the research will be disseminated at a workshop entitled ‘Alcohol Harm Reduction: Issues and Evidence’. The information disseminated by this workshop will maximise the potential of the research to be used by NHS organisations.

Lastly, the research outputs from this project possess the potential to contribute to research-informed policy making. In particular, on a national level. It is anticipated that this project will serve as a catalyst for future reporting of UK policy recommendations.
Short titleAlcohol Policy Analysis
Effective start/end date6/11/175/11/18


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