UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) funding secured by UKCTAS academics

We are delighted to announce that UKCTAS has been successful in securing future funding through a multi-funder research initiative; the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP). UKTCAS academics joined forces with new collaborators and a range of public and private sector organisations to apply to the UKPRP.

The new consortium has now been awarded £5.9 million funding over five years and is called SPECTRUM (Shaping Public hEalth poliCies To Reduce ineqUalities and harM).

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UKPRP research grants aim to develop, test and 254refine new, practical and cost-effective approaches to preventing non-communicable diseases at scale, which will in turn help to reduce health inequalities across the UK. The initiative is supported by twelve funders from UK Research and Innovation research councils, charities and government. In its first round of funding, four Consortia and four network grants have been awarded.

Prof. Linda Bauld, University of Edinburgh

Linda Bauld

“SPECTRUM intends to address some of the most controversial questions facing the health of our population. To reduce diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases we need to address their main preventable causes. To do so means introducing and enforcing public health policies that often clash with the business interests of very profitable companies.

SPECTRUM aims to produce research that can rise to this challenge. This research will be used by our partners outside of academia, who will be active members of SPECTRUM, to make the case for effective policy and practice to improve health and address inequalities in the UK and further afield.”

The SPECTRUM Consortium is led by Professor Linda Bauld (pictured above) from the University of Edinburgh and for the last 10 years has been the deputy director of UKCTAS. Co-investigators and collaborators from 10 Universities in the UK and one in Australia are included. In addition, the Consortium brings together leading alliances that aim to improve health and reduce inequalities in the UK and further afield, along with Public Health England, Health Scotland, Public Health Wales and two independent companies specialising in statistical modelling and retail data.

SPECTRUM will aim to conduct research to prevent and address harm to health from unhealthy commodities by using systems science to identify and evaluate solutions. The focus of the new Consortium will be the commercial determinants of health and health inequalities, continuing UKCTAS’s work at the population level on tobacco and alcohol, but also extending to unhealthy food and drink products where appropriate. The research will be organised around 8 inter-related Work Packages involving new research, along with knowledge exchange, impact and public engagement activities.

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More information is available on UKCTAS.net/SPECTRUM

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A content analysis of tobacco and alcohol content in Netflix and Amazon Prime original programmes accessed from the UK | Research Report

Quantifying tobacco and alcohol imagery in Netflix and Amazon Prime instant video original programming accessed from the UK: a content analysis.

Alexander B BarkerJordan SmithAbby HunterJohn BrittonRachael L Murray

Exposure to tobacco and alcohol content in audio-visual media is a risk factor for smoking and alcohol use in young people. Previous UK research has quantified tobacco and alcohol content in films and broadcast television but not that of video-on-demand (VOD) services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Furthermore, it is not clear whether regulation by Dutch (Netflix) or UK (Amazon Prime) authorities results in differences in content. We report an analysis of tobacco and alcohol content in a sample of episodes from the most popular programmes from these two VOD providers, and compare findings with earlier studies of UK prime-time television content.

Content analysis of a sample of 50 episodes from the five highest rated series released on Netflix and Amazon Prime in 2016, using 1 min interval coding of any tobacco or alcohol content, actual or implied use, paraphernalia and branding.

bmjopen-2019-February-9-2--F1.medium
Number of 1 min intervals containing tobacco and alcohol content by coding category.

Of 2704 intervals coded, any tobacco content appeared in 353 (13%) from 37 (74%) episodes. Any alcohol content appeared in 363 (13%) intervals in 47 (94%) episodes. There were no significant differences between the two services, however the proportion of episodes containing tobacco and alcohol was significantly higher in VOD original programmes than those recorded in an earlier study of prime-time UK television.

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Alcohol branding seen in Netflix and Amazon prime instant video original programming.

Audio-visual tobacco and alcohol content is common in VOD original programmes and represents a further source of exposure to imagery causing smoking uptake and alcohol use in young people. This appears to be equally true of services regulated in the UK and The Netherlands. Given that VOD services are consumed by a global audience, it appears likely that VOD content is an important global driver of tobacco and alcohol consumption.

Strengths and Limitations of this study:

  • This study is the first to explore alcohol and tobacco content in video-on-demand (VOD) programmes.
  • Established methods were used to explore the content in VOD original content.
  • This study provides a comparison of VOD alcohol and tobacco content to UK broadcast television content.
  • This study is limited to a sample of programmes and episodes on each VOD service.
  • As viewing figures are not available for VOD original content, we could not estimate exposure to tobacco and alcohol content.

Correspondence to Dr Alex Barker; alexander.barker@nottingham.ac.uk

 

 

Are young people under the influence of alcohol content on TV? – Research Report

Alex Barker, University of Nottingham Research Fellow.

Ofcom’s 9pm watershed might not be fit for purpose, argues Alex Barker.

Alcohol use at a young age is a strong risk factor for dependence in later life, and it is important to identify avoidable causes of alcohol consumption in young people. There is strong evidence to suggest that exposure to alcohol advertising or other alcohol imagery in the media increases use in adolescents.

Whilst the Ofcom Broadcasting code protects under-18s by restricting alcohol use in TV programmes made for children and preventing the glamorisation of alcohol use in programmes broadcast before the 9pm watershed or in programmes likely to be viewed by children, a previous study from 2010 found that there is a large amount of alcohol shown on prime-time UK television. We aimed to provide contemporary data on the amount of alcohol content shown in prime-time UK television.

In our study, A content analysis of alcohol content in UK television, published in the Journal of Public Health, we investigated the amount of alcohol content shown on UK television. We recorded free-to-air prime-time TV across the five main channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) between the hours of 6pm-10pm during three separate weeks in September, October and November 2015. We then recorded the amount and types of alcohol content shown using 1-minute interval coding, which involves recording any alcohol content shown in every 1-minute period in the following categories; any alcohol content, actual alcohol use, implied alcohol use, alcohol related content (such as beer pumps or bottles), and alcohol branding.

We found that alcohol content is extremely common, occurring in 14% of intervals we coded, with alcohol content being seen in 67% of programmes and 47% of advertisement/trailer periods. We found alcohol use in 2% of the total intervals, implied use in 7% of intervals and alcohol related content, such as beer pumps, in 10% of intervals. Whilst branding was uncommon, 3% of intervals, 122 brands were identified, with three brands (Heineken, Corona and Fosters) accounting for almost half of all brand occurrences. The programme genres containing the most alcohol content were ‘Cookery’ (all cookery programmes included alcohol content), ‘Soap Opera’ (99% included alcohol content) and ‘Drama’ (94% included alcohol content). The majority of alcohol content was shown before the 9pm watershed, when programmes unsuitable for children are allowed to be broadcast. The amount of alcohol content was slightly higher than in the previous study.

The majority of branding occurred through the sponsorship of programmes, such as comedy on Channel 4 (sponsored by Fosters). Advertisements are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and are expected to conform to the UK Code of British Advertising (BCAP code). According to the code, alcohol ‘may not be advertised in or adjacent to children’s programmes or programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18’. However, programmes popular with or watched by large numbers of young people are not necessarily made specifically for them. Branding was also commonly featured in coverage of sports events, such as Heineken, which featured predominantly during the Rugby World Cup footage. The ASA’s definition of advertising does not include sponsorship of programmes or pitch side advertisements at televised sporting events. Exemption of prime-time television and sports programmes from alcohol advertising regulations has the potential to lead to significant exposure among young people during peak viewing hours.

Television remains a major source of alcohol exposure to young people in the UK and is likely to continue to be a contributor to alcohol uptake by young people. Our results suggest that the Ofcom 9pm watershed, designed to protect children and young people from harm, is currently not fulfilling its purpose in relation to commercial advertising and alcohol content in programmes. This has the potential to lead to significant exposure among young people during peak viewing hours, when approximately 4.5 million 7–14 year olds watch television. Tighter scheduling rules from Ofcom and the ASA, such as restricting alcohol content to after the 9pm watershed, could prevent children and adolescents being exposed to alcohol content and advertising.

Written by Alex Barker, research fellow in Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham. Originally posted on ias.org.uk on 4th Feb 2019.

Alcohol Problems Policy & Practice Masters Module | Kings College London | 4 – 8th Feb 2019

“It was FANTASTIC and I would strongly recommend others to attend”

Leading academics from King’s and across the 13 universities in the UKCTAS will present and discuss the latest evidence. Speakers include Sir Ian Gilmore (Alcohol Health Alliance), Professor Colin Drummond, Professor Mark Petticrew (LSHTM), Katherine Brown (Institute of Alcohol Studies) and Dr. James Nicholls (Alcohol Research UK). Many of the inputs have broader public health relevance beyond alcohol, to other health issues such as tobacco, obesity and inequalities.

After successfully running the module for three years, we are delighted to announce the module will return again in 2019 to King’s College London. In 2019 we will welcome a large number of top class speakers to discuss important areas of this public health issue. With topics ranging from alcohol and pregnancy, alcohol marketing and brief interventions, we can guarantee this course is invaluable to anyone working in this area.

MAIN AIMS OF THE MODULE:

• Enhance students’ understanding of research methods by focusing on current research in alcohol policy and interventions.
• Enable critical appraisal of evidence in alcohol policy interventions.
• Explore the role and perspectives of key stakeholders including the alcohol industry and the role of media and marketing in alcohol use.

PLACES ARE LIMITED!

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Student numbers are capped at 40 to ensure an effective learning experience and teacher-student ratio.
Early bird discounts apply until 14th December 2018.

Applications will not be taken after 1st February 2019.

If you are unsure about its suitability for your needs please contact Dr. Sadie Boniface (sadie.boniface@kcl.ac.uk).

More information: ukctas.net/alcoholmasters

Advertising for alcohol is prevalent in UK Television| Research Report

A recent study in the Journal of Public Health indicates that advertising for alcohol is common in British television, and is therefore a potential driver of alcohol use in young people.

It is estimated that the rate of alcohol consumption in those over 15 in the UK is the eighth highest in Europe. Alcohol use was responsible for at least 6813 deaths in the country in 2015, and cost the NHS £3.5 billion in 2013–14.

There is strong evidence that exposure to advertising or other alcohol imagery in the media increases subsequent use in adolescents. An estimated 28 million British households have at least one television and in 2015 the average viewing was 3 hours and 47 minutes a day. Previous studies have found that alcohol imagery appeared frequently in studies of UK television; some 40 per cent of programmes contained alcohol content.

In 2015, researchers quantified the content of all programmes and advertisements broadcast on the five, free access, national UK channels. The researchers here explored the differences in content between channels and genres, and compared these with the findings of a similar study in 2010.

A total of 611 programmes and 1140 commercials were recorded during the peak viewing hours, between 6 and 10 pm, from Monday to Sunday in three separate weeks. Alcohol imagery occurred most frequently in the news, current affairs programmes, and soap operas.

This study demonstrates that alcohol imagery is extremely common on UK television, occurring in over 50% of all programmes broadcast and almost 50% of all advertising periods between programmes. The majority of alcohol content occurred before 9 pm. Branding occurred in 18% of programmes and 11% of advertisement periods and involved 122 brands, though three brands (Heineken, Corona, and Fosters) accounted for almost half of all brand appearances.

Alcohol content shown on TV has an effect on the uptake of alcohol use in young people. This analysis shows that television remains a major source of alcohol exposure to young people in the UK and is likely to continue to be a contributor to alcohol uptake by young people, with levels of content slightly higher than the researchers observed in the earlier analysis of programme content from 2010.

“There is strong evidence that viewing alcohol advertising or imagery has an uptake on subsequent alcohol use in young people,” says Dr Alex Barker, a UKCTAS funded Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham.

“Our study shows that alcohol imagery, including branding, is regularly broadcast on prime-time TV, when children and adolescents are likely to be watching. Tighter scheduling rules from the Advertising Standards Agency and Ofcom (broadcast regulator), such as restricting alcohol advertisements and alcohol imagery in programmes, to after the 9 p.m. watershed, could prevent children and adolescents being exposed to this content.”

Direct correct questions about the study to:
Alexander B. Barker
UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Division of Epidemiology and Public Health
University of Nottingham
Clinical Sciences Building
City Hospital, Nottingham
NG5 1PB, UK
alexander.barker@nottingham.ac.uk

To request a copy of the study, please contact:
Cassie Jane Buckley
CassieJane.Buckley@oup.com

Sharing on social media? Find Oxford Journals online at @OxfordJournals
Please acknowledge the Journal of Public Health as a source in any articles.
DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdy142

Serving smaller alcoholic drinks could reduce the UK’s alcohol consumption | Research Report | University of Liverpool

New research published in Addiction, conducted by researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Sheffield, highlights the potential benefits of reducing the standard serving size of alcoholic beverages.

It is well known that alcohol consumption contributes to premature death and ill health, and alcohol-related harm places a substantial burden on society. Many drinkers find it hard to cut down and attempts to cut down often do not lead to actual reductions in alcohol consumption. Therefore, changes to the environment that make it easier for people to drink less could have a substantial impact on public health.

One potential environmental influence on alcohol consumption is serving size. Nutrition research consistently shows that portion sizes affect how much a person eats. People eat more if they are given a relatively large portion of food compared to smaller portions, but they do not compensate for this by eating less later on. However, the effect that serving size has on alcohol consumption has not been examined until now. The present research aimed to investigate if reducing the serving size of alcoholic beverages would reduce alcohol consumption.

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Standard vs Reduced serving sizes:

The researchers, led by Dr Inge Kersbergen from the University of Liverpool, tested the effects of reducing the serving size of alcohol on how much alcohol participants drank in two studies.

In the first study, participants were randomized to consume alcohol from standard or reduced serving sizes whilst watching a one-hour TV programme in a laboratory that looks like a living room. Standard serving sizes contained 2.07 units per serving (equivalent to a pint of weak lager) and reduced serving sizes contained 25% less than the standard serving.

In the second study, participants were invited to one of four pub quiz nights in a local bar which only sold standard vs. reduced serving sizes. Standard servings were pints and 175ml of wine (‘typically served as a medium glass in pubs’) and reduced servings were 2/3 pints and 125ml of wine (‘small glass’). Drink prices were adjusted to make sure that the standard and reduced serving sizes were the same value for money. Researchers observed how much alcohol each participant drank.

In both experiments, participants could order as many drinks as they wanted for the duration of the experiment. This means that participants drinking from reduced servings could compensate for the smaller serving size by ordering more drinks if they wanted to.

The researchers found that participants who were served relatively smaller servings drank less alcohol in a single drinking session than participants who were served standard servings. In the first study, reduced serving sizes led to a 20.7% – 22.3% decrease in alcohol consumption over a one-hour drinking period in the ‘living room’ lab. In the second study, reduced serving sizes led to a 32.4% – 39.6% decrease alcohol consumption over a longer drinking period (up to three hours) during the real-life pub quiz.

Based on the results the researchers used the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model to estimate that reducing the standard serving size of beer, wine and cider in bars and restaurants by a quarter would lead to 1,400 fewer deaths and 73,000 fewer hospital admissions every year.

Public health intervention:

Dr Kersbergen, said: “These studies are the first to demonstrate that reducing the serving size of alcoholic beverages prompts reductions in alcohol consumption.

The typical serving size of beer in the UK of a pint is larger than many other countries and the size of wine servings in UK bars and restaurants has increased in recent decades, so there is room for serving sizes to be reduced without making them unrealistically small. Reducing the standard serving size of alcohol in bars and restaurants may be an effective way to reduce alcohol consumption at the population level and improve public health.”

Professor Matt Field, who leads the Addiction research group within the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool, added: “Reducing the standard serving size of alcoholic drinks could automatically prompt people to drink less, even if they are not motivated to cut down. But at the same time, the total amount that people consume would remain completely their own choice”.

Dr Eric Robinson, a University of Liverpool researcher who was also involved in the study, said: “Our research showed that people do not seem to compensate for the smaller servings by ordering more drinks on a single night and it seems unlikely that any further compensation would happen, but future research is needed to find out if people may compensate in other ways, such as drinking more often or getting stronger drinks.”

The full study, entitled ‘Reducing the standard serving size of alcoholic beverages prompts reductions in alcohol consumption’, can be found here and was funded in part by an MRC research grant awarded to Dr Eric Robinson.

Original post 14/05/2018: University of Liverpool News

The Drink Less smartphone app: the project so far | Claire Garnett

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‘Drink Less’ is a smartphone app for iOS devices that aims to help people reduce their alcohol consumption (drinklessalcohol.com) – you can download it here.

It was developed and evaluated by a team of researchers at University College London using evidence and theory from the field of behavioural science.

Smartphone apps have a wide reach and can be provided to many users at a low cost though few have been evaluated. This means there’s little information on whether and how they work. When the Drink Less app was launched in 2016, many of its users agreed to participate in a study and have their anonymous data used for scientific research to test it.

normative-feedbackThe study tested the five separate app modules (you can read more about the app’s different features in a previous UKCTAS blog post) which each focused on a different behaviour change strategy. Nearly 700 users were recruited to the trial and different groups were randomly given either intensive or minimal versions of each of the app modules. The effectiveness of each was then measured by comparing levels of drinking before using the app and after one-month.

On average, over the month following download, people logged-in 12 times and drank four fewer units of alcohol. People who received a more intensive version of a module did not reduce their alcohol consumption significantly more than people who got a less intensive version of the same module. However, combinations of specific modules led to a greater reduction in alcohol consumption where users had the intensive versions of both modules. This evaluation has recently been published and you can read about it in more detail here.

User testimonials

Drink Less seems to be a popular app amongst users. It has been downloaded over 21,000 times and the app consistently appears amongst the top results for the ‘alcohol’ search term on the Apple App Store and has an average 4-star rating (based on 26 ratings as of 23/3/2018).

In addition to that, the researchers at UCL have received a lot of positive feedback about the app, some of which is shared below (with their permission):

Well researched and brilliantly designed. It’s both easy and thorough to track drinking and how it affects all areas your life. It’s designed so it’s not preaching because mostly you capture and listen to your own advice – very individualised and very powerful. A great tool to help consider past consequence and create better future behaviours around use of alcohol.”

dashboard“Excellent app that is so useful. Would definitely recommend it.”

“Lots of these apps around but this one is easy to use, non-judgemental and backed up by theory. Really like it. I was surprised by my results. Tracker, goal setting and ideas about how my drinking compares with others. I was surprised!”

“I would like to thank the developers who have worked on the app – it’s been a real help for me as I had become a seriously habitual drinker – I have now settled into a good routine, limiting my intake to under 14 units/week and only imbibing on Friday and Saturday evenings. I couldn’t have done it without your help, thank you. I have told many friends about my success with the app…it really has proved to be a game changer.”

“I love your app. In 2 weeks it’s helped me understand my consumption and learn to plan which has helped me cut down. I like the fact it’s contributing to wider research too. I’d tried a number of apps that help you monitor your alcohol consumption, most of them I stopped using after a week or two… but that did change when I started to use the Drink Less app. What I learned was that I needed to think ahead and plan when I was going to drink…

I’m never going to stop drinking, I love a glass of wine, but it has stopped me casually drinking without thinking. I now understand that I must have been passively consuming way way too much. You hear that all the time, but nothing made it as tangible as this app… I work in an industry where alcohol plays a large part of the culture, so gaining this understanding helped me manage those work situations where alcohol was central much better.”

“I’ve been participating with your Drink Less App for the last 14 weeks. During which I’ve made significant changes to my drinking consumption and life style. I feel I’m getting back some control over my drinking which was controlling me…my GP has me down as having average consumption at 27 alcohol units per week. It’s been like that for many years. That’s before I found and started working with your Drink Less app. So getting it down to 13 units / wk is something my wife and I are proud of. Thanks again for your help and please keep up the good work.”

Plans for the future

Drink Less is in a good position to be built upon as an already successful app. Initial findings suggest that it has the potential to help excessive drinkers in the UK reduce their alcohol consumption at a low incremental cost per user.

add-drinks

Next up for the Drink Less app is to create an optimised version based on user feedback and the findings from the screening trial. This research is part of an 18-month project funded by the NIHR SPHR. And as part of this project, a funding application will be submitted for a confirmatory trial to determine whether the Drink Less app can provide an effective alternative to the help people usually receive for alcohol reduction.

All of the related scientific papers on the Drink Less app are available here.

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS), the Society for Study of Addiction (SSA), the NIHR School for Public Health Research (NIHR SPHR) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

The Drink Less app was built by Greg Plumby, Edward Warrender and Chris Pritchard (from Portable Pixels) and Hari Karam Singh.