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Can alcohol policy prevent harms to women and children from men's alcohol consumption? An overview of existing literature and suggested ways forward
The World Health Organization's list of cost-effective alcohol control policies is a widely-used resource that highlights strategies to address alcohol-related harms. However, there is more evidence on how recommended policies impact harms to people who drink alcohol—such as physical health problems caused by heavy alcohol use—than on secondhand harms inflicted on someone other than the person drinking alcohol, i.e., alcohol's harms to others. In this essay, we describe evidence of impacts of alcohol policy on harms to women and children resulting from men's alcohol consumption, as well as options for making policies more relevant for reducing intimate partner violence and child abuse. We begin with an overview of harms to women and children resulting from men's alcohol consumption and review cost-effective alcohol policies with potential to reduce these harms based on likely mechanisms of action. Next, we present a rapid review of reviews to describe existing evidence of impacts of these policies on the outcomes of physical violence, sexual violence, and child abuse and neglect. We found little evidence of systematic evaluation of impacts of these important alcohol policies on harms to women and children. Thus, we advocate for increased attention in evaluation research to the impacts of alcohol policies on harms experienced by women and children who are exposed to men who drink alcohol. We also argue for more consideration of a broader range of policies and interventions to reduce these specific types of harm. Finally, we present a conceptual model illustrating how alcohol policies may be supplemented with other interventions specifically tailored to reduce alcohol-related harms commonly experienced by women and children as a result of men's alcohol use.
Journal/Conference/Book titleInternational Journal of Drug Policy