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On the 15th of May 2018, the Centre for Health Economics & Policy Innovation convened a roundtable to discuss the evaluation of industry-led actions to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, organised by Franco Sassi (Imperial College Business School) and Peter Anderson (Newcastle University), and chaired by Ian Gilmore (Liverpool University).

The World Health Organization has set a target of reducing the harmful use of alcohol by 10% between 2010 and 2025. The Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol has emphasised that improvements in alcohol-related health outcomes cannot be achieved by health care systems alone, but require whole of government and whole of society approaches, including action by the alcohol industry.

There is a need to independently evaluate industry actions in the pursuit of product reformulation goals to ensure that the reduction of alcohol concentration of beverage products translates effectively into a reduced consumption of alcohol, in particular by heavy drinkers, and in a reduction of alcohol-related harm.

Whilst alcohol-industry players can undertake their own evaluations of the impacts of changes of their products in the relevant markets, full independent academic evaluations are needed to convince the academic and public health communities, policy makers and the general public that similar initiatives can contribute to mitigating alcohol-related harms. The limited availability of public research funding for the evaluation of public health policies, as well as the risk of bias and reputational risk involved in direct funding of evaluations by industry has created a gap between the potential for industry-led initiatives to contribute to harm reduction and the willingness and ability of governments to rely on such initiatives as part of their public health strategies.