Empowering Communities

Since 2015, Alcohol Forum Ireland has been the lead organisation in Ireland supporting and working with communities to take action on reducing and preventing alcohol-related harm.

Community Action on Alcohol

Community Action on Alcohol strengthens and empowers local communities to work with across a range of sectors to tackle alcohol harm as a serious obstacle to community safety, cohesion and well-being. At the heart of this process is the empowerment of communities - their ownership and control of their own endeavours and destinies.

Community action on alcohol in Ireland draws on the high impact alcohol harm reduction strategies identified by the WHO and translates those into user friendly strategies for action at the local level.

At its heart, community action on alcohol unlocks the power and potential of communities to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. It values community leadership, alliance building and empowers communities to become actively engaged in advocating for public health measures to reduce alcohol harm. It aims to work in a number of different areas at a community level to achieve a reduction in harm; including regulating the numbers/density of alcohol retail outlets, policing and enforcement, community awareness and attitude change, education and early intervention.

Community Action on Alcohol in Ireland: A Five Step model for mobilizing communities

Community action is one of ten interventions recommended in Global Strategy on Alcohol (WHO 2010) and evidence indicates that it is most successful in communities with a population of 5,000 people or more.

The National Community Action on Alcohol Pilot Project began in Jan 2015 and engaged six Local and Regional Drug Task Forces in a programme designed to activate evidenced-based community action on alcohol at the local level and has expanded to more areas since the pilot phase. The work supports Goal 4 of the National Drug and Alcohol Strategy to ‘Support participation of individuals, families and communities’. Action 1.1.1 explicitly commits to ‘promoting the use of evidence-based approaches to mobilising community action on alcohol’.

Community action has a strong focus on evidence informed measures. The common features of a community mobilisation approach have been identified by Wagemaar et al (2000), Holder (2004), Gloppen et al (2012), Shaekshaft et al (2014). The core elements identified across these studies, have been further developed and adapted as appropriate to an Irish setting and a five step model for community action on alcohol has emerged which is consultative, collaborative and process-oriented.

1. Formation of community based interagency coalition

Successful prevention efforts should be interdisciplinary and involve cross-sectoral collaboration (key stakeholders include Drug & Alcohol Task Forces, Gardai, education, health & community sectors)

2. Training & Capacity building

Training to build a collective understanding across local community & statutory sectors of alcohol harm & evidence based measures

3. Research

Gather baseline evidence against which to measure progress

4. Identifying approach & Developing Plan collaboratively

Develop a SMART local alcohol action plan, guided by evidence and shaped by local priorities

5. Implementation & Evaluation

Local interagency coalition oversees & monitors implementation of plan & evaluates outcomes

Established as a pilot initiative in 2015, the NCAAP has supported community action on alcohol in six Regional and seven Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force Areas. To date over 20 communities across Ireland have developed local community action on alcohol plans to promote and protect health and to reduce alcohol harm.

In Ireland, the NCAAP has supported plans that promote local leadership and ownership and deliver a range of high impact strategies in the areas of supply, advertising, licensing, prevention and screening and brief intervention.

  • The National Community Action On Alcohol Programme aims to build the capacity of communities, through Local and Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Forces (L/RDATF) to develop Local Alcohol Action Plans.
  • For the participating communities, the aim is to achieve significant reductions in rates of problem drinking, underage drinking and alcohol-related harm.  
  • It builds awareness within Local and Regional Drug and Alcohol Taskforces of alcohol prevention and related harm to both the drinker and to others.
  • At a policy level, the project aims to develop, test and evaluate a range of measures and work towards mainstreaming as appropriate.    This is done through bringing together a broad range of organisations at a local level including local government, An Garda Siochana, health services, children’s services, education providers and youth and community groups to develop a comprehensive local action plan.

A Local Action Plan will focus on a number of high impact strategies including strengthening restrictions on alcohol availability including sales to underage and intoxicated persons, consumption in public areas and action on risky or dangerous alcohol promotions and facilitating access to screening, brief interventions, referral and treatment.   

The Alcohol Forum receives funding to support the development of Community Action on Alcohol from the Health and Well Being Division of the HSE. The work in communities is resourced and supported through Regional and Local Drug and Alcohol Task Forces.

Our Initatives

What is it?

Supporting the development of community action on alcohol in Ireland and to facilitate collective working to to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.

What is it?

An initiative developed by ICAAN to reduce the impact that the alcohol industry is having on our lives and those of our children.

‘This has been amazing training…enlightening, motivating. I’m not new to this area of work, I’ve worked in the area of addiction for almost 20 years and I have learned so much, about community, about the alcohol industry, about what really works’

Participant - National community action on alcohol training programme.

Find Out More...

Would you like to learn more about Community Action on Alcohol?


Contact Paula Leonard: National Lead on Community Action.  

Publications & Resources

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