Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland´s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS)

Background: Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy

In a bid to reduce alcohol related harm and improve the health and well-being of the Scottish population, the Scottish Government is taking forward Scotland’s alcohol strategy. Scotland’s alcohol strategy is a whole population approach incorporating both legislative and policy measures to shift changes in alcohol related behaviours. The strategy comprises the Framework for Action, Licensing (Scotland) Act (2005), Alcohol etc (Scotland) Act (2010) and most recently the Alcohol Minimum Pricing (Scotland) Act 2012 (still to be implemented).

Further information on alcohol related policy is Scotland is available on the NHS Health Scotland Alcohol webpages.

Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) 

The Scottish Government has tasked NHS Health Scotland with the responsibility of evaluating Scotland’s alcohol strategy (including Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP), if implemented) through the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) programme of work. 

The key evaluation questions outlined for the whole MESAS programme of work are:

  • How and to what extent has implementing the package of measures (taken together and/or individually) contained in the Scottish alcohol strategy contributed to reducing alcohol-related harms?
  • Are some (people and businesses) affected (positively and negatively) more than others?
  • How might the strategy be implemented differently to improve effectiveness?

A ‘Theory of Change’ approach has been adopted to address the evaluation questions presented above. The Theory of Change assumes that alcohol related harms will reduce if alcohol consumption goes down. Further information on the Theory of Change and the evaluation plan is available in the first annual MESAS (baseline) report.

The evaluation comprises of a portfolio of seven studies. The studies started at the beginning of 2010 and will run through to 2015, with the monitoring of routine data continuing beyond. Further information on the study portfolio can be found in the MESAS Briefing Paper (December 2009). Additionally the evaluation of the impact of MUP, if implemented, will be developed and interpreted within the framework of the MESAS programme of work. The evaluation plan for MUP is currently being devised.

MESAS reporting

There will be an annual report pulling together all the studies that contribute to the MESAS programme of work. Annual reports are produced by the MESAS project team and signed off by Dr Andrew Fraser (NHS Health Scotland) and Dr Diane Stockton (ISD, NHS National Services Scotland).

In March 2011, the first annual MESAS (baseline) report was published. This report sets the scene for the evaluation by describing the current alcohol strategy, its Theory of Change and the plan for evaluation. It then describes the baseline trends for alcohol consumption, affordability and alcohol-related harms. The second annual report was published in December 2012. The second annual report provides an update of Scotland’s alcohol strategy, the evaluation plan and the analyses of price, consumption, affordability and alcohol-related harms detailed in the baseline report. Future annual reports will continue to update the trends previously published and describe the trends for other outcomes.

The MESAS third annual report provides an update on Scotland’s alcohol strategy. It includes the evaluation plan, the trends in price and affordability, alcohol sales and consumption, and alcohol-related harm as detailed in the baseline report. New chapters incorporating findings from the evaluation of the Licensing Act and the contribution of the economic downturn to recent falls in alcohol-related harms in Scotland are also included.

The MESAS fourth annual report shows a continued downward trend in consumption, alcohol-related deaths and hospitalisations, and includes the main findings from two studies published in 2014; one assessing the impact of increased investment in specialist alcohol treatment and care services and the other exploring changes in knowledge and attitudes related to alcohol.

The final reports of any commissioned studies will also be published. Details on the portfolio of studies and other MESAS publications are available on the MESAS Publications page.

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