The ACORN network kicked off today with a popular and interactive launch event. Suzanne Costello, CEO of the Public Health Institute of Ireland (itself a cross-border body) chaired the event, which was attended online by more than 60 researchers, policy and community colleagues and other stakeholders. Prof. Joe Barry delivered the first plenary presentation, focused on the background to and structure of the network.
All participants had the opportunity then to attend two of the four breakout sessions, each one focused on an ACORN theme. Colin Angus (University of Sheffield) led the Alcohol Pricing research theme, Prof. Niamh Shortt (University of Edinburgh) led the Alcohol Availability research theme, Dr. Pat Kenny (TU Dublin) led the Alcohol Marketing research theme and Dr. Matt Lesch (University of York) led the alcohol policymaking and politics research theme. Breakouts focused on setting the scene for research on each theme, highlighting the relevant work of ACORN members and lively discussions with those present. The discussions were fed back into the main plenary event by rapporteurs for each theme including Dr. Frank Houghton (Limerick IT), Dr. Nathan Critchlow (University of Stirling), Vania Filipova (TU Dublin) and Dr. Joanna Purdy (Institute of Public Health in Ireland).
In the final session, Prof. Niamh Fitzgerald (Institute for Social Marketing & Health, University of Stirling) presented the next steps for the network.
We are delighted to announce that ACORN is now open to interested colleagues to sign up.
You can sign up to the ACORN mailing list, and express interest in applying to become a member of ACORN by completing a single form here. ACORN public events, activities and the ACORN mailing list, will be open to researchers, policy stakeholders and interested colleagues.
Membership of ACORN, and access to internal capacity building activities, will be restricted to researchers interested in building or developing UK-Ireland collaborations on alcohol policy research in one of our four priority themes (price, availability, marketing and politics/policymaking). ACORN welcomes interest from both early career and established researchers and from diverse academic disciplines.
ACORN reserves the right to exclude participants from activities where a conflict of interest is evident.
Dr. Frank Houghton, Limerick Institute of Technology, founder member of ACORN, summarises his new study for ACORN.
Ireland’s Public Health (Alcohol) Act of 2018 represents a welcome addition to the ongoing struggle to contain Ireland’s problematic relationship with alcohol. However, crucial deficits in this legislation continue to limit its full potential. Most obviously, these include the lack of any indication of a date of commencement for the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol, and a similar absence in relation to the mandatory introduction of alcohol warnings on such beverages.
Concerns also exist around ‘intoxigenic’ (ie drunkenness inducing) environments in Ireland, given the pervasiveness of alcohol advertising. This issue is particularly important in relation to children and youths. The Act will restrict alcohol advertising at sporting venues and local authority parks, as well as in taxis, trains or buses, or at events targeted at children. These developments are positive. However, a number of other elements in this legislation are inadequate and appear rather perfunctory. For example, although there is now an exclusion zone on alcohol advertising around schools, crèches, and local authority playgrounds, under current legislation this zone is a meagre 200m. This exclusion zone obviously needs to be extended to at least 400m, and ideally to at least 500m.
The current legislation also involves exemptions to this exclusion zone for licensed premises and alcohol manufacturers and wholesalers. However, these exemptions are both inappropriate and unnecessary and serve only to perpetuate the pervasiveness of alcohol in Irish streetscapes. Finally, although the current list of premises with advertising exclusion zones is an important start, it is equally clear that many more locations should equally be afforded such protected zones. Obvious examples include health, medical and social care work facilities, as well both civic (eg.libraries & community centres) and entertainment venues routinely visited by children (eg. cinemas, theatres, zoos, wildlife parks, and swimming pools).
For more information see Houghton & McInerney (2020) The Public Health (Alcohol) Act: Spatial issues and glaring gaps. Irish Geography. 53(2). DOI: 10.2014/igj.v53i2.1423 The Public Health (Alcohol) Act: spatial issues and glaring gaps. – Drugs and Alcohol
The UK and Ireland face common cultural, social, political and economic challenges in reducing harms related to alcohol consumption, yet alcohol research has historically been the domain of clinicians. ACORN has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) and the Irish Research Council to take a social science-led approach to alcohol policy research.
ACORN aims to generate and build capacity for interdisciplinary research into the development, adoption, implementation and evaluation of alcohol policy innovation in Ireland and the UK within four cross-cutting themes: price, availability, marketing and politics.
ACORN is open to academic researchers in Ireland and the UK with an interest in research in any of our four themes, with the aim of reducing alcohol-related harms. Policy partners will also be welcome to join activities where relevant.
ACORN starts on 1st March 2021, and will host a launch event on 29th April 2021, 1-4pm. Further details, including sign-up, to follow.