Comparing global alcohol and tobacco control efforts: network formation and evolution in international health governance
Gneiting, U.; Schmitz, H.Peter.
Health Policy and Planning 31 Suppl. 1: I98-109
Smoking and drinking constitute two risk factors contributing to the rising burden of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries. Both issues have gained increased international attention, but tobacco control has made more sustained progress in terms of international and domestic policy commitments, resources dedicated to reducing harm, and reduction of tobacco use in many high-income countries. The research presented here offers insights into why risk factors with comparable levels of harm experience different trajectories of global attention. The analysis focuses particular attention on the role of dedicated global health networks composed of individuals and organizations producing research and engaging in advocacy on a given health problem. Variation in issue characteristics and the policy environment shape the opportunities and challenges of global health networks focused on reducing the burden of disease. What sets the tobacco case apart was the ability of tobacco control advocates to create and maintain a consensus on policy solutions, expand their reach in low- and middle-income countries and combine evidence-based research with advocacy reaching beyond the public health-centered focus of the core network. In contrast, a similar network in the alcohol case struggled with expanding its reach and has yet to overcome divisions based on competing problem definitions and solutions to alcohol harm. The tobacco control network evolved from a group of dedicated individuals to a global coalition of membership-based organizations, whereas the alcohol control network remains at the stage of a collection of dedicated and like-minded individuals.