Little detailed evidence is available on how integrated policies could impact population health and under what conditions such policies could be realized. The aim of this study was to assess how youth alcohol consumption trends in the province of Noord-Brabant, The Netherlands, were related to the development and implementation of integrated policies.
In a retrospective multiple case study, alcohol policies of six municipalities with stronger declines in youth alcohol consumption between 2007 and 2011 (cases) were compared to four municipalities with weaker declines (controls). Information on the policy process in the same period was obtained through semi-structured in-depth interviews with policy advisors. Information on implemented interventions was extracted from policy documents and checked by the interviewees. Interviews were analyzed for thematic content.
Only municipalities with stronger declines in alcohol consumption involved sectors other than public health and had started to implement interventions that use regulatory or enforcement strategies. Their involvement was facilitated by framing youth alcohol consumption as a safety rather than a health problem, whereby local media played a substantial role. Implementation of integrated policies was further facilitated by dedicated leadership and sufficient resources.
Reductions in youth alcohol consumption in Noord-Brabant were stronger when municipalities started to develop integrated policies. Results suggest that integrated policies framing a health problem as a broader societal problem could positively influence population health.