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Identifying opportunities for engaging the ‘community’ in local alcohol decision-making: A literature review and synthesis

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • M. McGrath
  • J. Reynolds
  • M. Smolar
  • S. Hare
  • M. Ogden
  • J. Popay
  • K. Lock
  • P. Cook
  • M. Egan
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Drug Policy
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)193-204
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date18/10/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Introduction: Engaging communities in actions to reduce alcohol harms has been identified as an international priority. While there exist recommendations for community engagement within alcohol licensing legislation, there is limited understanding of how to involve communities in local decision-making to reduce harms from the alcohol environment. Methods: A scoping literature review was conducted on community engagement in local government decision-making with relevance to the alcohol environment. Academic and grey literature databases were searched between April and June 2018 to identify examples of community engagement in local government in the UK, published since 2000. Texts were excluded if they did not describe in detail the mechanisms or rationale for community engagement. Information was extracted and synthesised through a narrative approach. Results: 3030 texts were identified through the searches, and 30 texts were included in the final review. Only one text described community engagement in alcohol decision-making (licensing); other local government sectors included planning, regeneration and community safety. Four rationales for community engagement emerged: statutory consultation processes; non-statutory engagement; as part of broader participatory initiatives; and community-led activism. While not all texts reported outcomes, a few described direct community influence on decisions. Broader outcomes included improved relationships between community groups and local government. However, lack of influence over decisions was also common, with multiple barriers to effective engagement identified. Conclusion: The lack of published examples of community engagement in local alcohol decision-making relevant to the UK suggests little priority has been placed on sharing learning about supporting engagement in this area. Taking a place-shaping perspective, useful lessons can be drawn from other areas of local government with relevance for the alcohol environment. Barriers to engagement must be considered carefully, particularly around how communities are defined, and how different interests toward the local alcohol environment are represented, or not.