Alcohol policies in Malawi: inclusion of WHO “best buy” interventions and use of multi-sectoral action

Beatrice L. Matanje Mwagomba, Misheck J. Nkhata, Alex Baldacchino, Jennifer Wisdom, Bagrey Ngwira

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Harmful use of alcohol is one of the most common risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases and other health conditions such as injuries. World Health Organization has identified highly cost-effective interventions for reduction of alcohol consumption at population level, known as “best buy” interventions, which include tax increases, bans on alcohol advertising and restricted access to retailed alcohol. This paper describes the extent of inclusion of alcohol related “best buy” interventions in national policies and also describes the application of multi-sectoral action in the development of alcohol policies in Malawi.

The study was part of a multi-country research project on Analysis of Non-Communicable Disease Preventive Policies in Africa, which applied a qualitative case study design. Data were collected from thirty-two key informants through interviews. A review of twelve national policy documents that relate to control of harmful use of alcohol was also conducted. Transcripts were coded according to a predefined protocol followed by thematic content analysis.

Only three of the twelve national policy documents related to alcohol included at least one “best buy” intervention. Multi-Sectoral Action was only evident in the development process of the latest alcohol policy document, the National Alcohol Policy. Facilitators for multi-sectoral action for alcohol policy formulation included: structured leadership and collaboration, shared concern over the burden of harmful use of alcohol, advocacy efforts by local non-governmental organisations and availability of some dedicated funding. Perceived barriers included financial constraints, high personnel turnover in different government departments, role confusion between sectors and some interference from the alcohol industry.

Malawi’s national legislations and policies have inadequate inclusion of the “best buy” interventions for control of harmful use of alcohol. Effective development and implementation of alcohol policies require structured organisation and collaboration of multi-sectoral actors. Sustainable financing mechanisms for the policy development and implementation processes should be considered; and the influence of the alcohol industry should be mitigated.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue numberSupplement 1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2018


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