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The ICAP Blue Book is intended as a guide to developing alcohol policies and prevention measures. It offers a pragmatic approach that relies on collective efforts and shared responsibility.
The Blue Book recognizes that alcohol is an integral part of most cultures around the world and that most people who drink do so because it gives them pleasure without adverse consequences. However, the Blue Book also acknowledges that certain patterns of drinking are associated with potential for health and social harm.
Therefore, the approach offered through the Blue Book is intended to address a range of different needs: measures aimed at individuals or groups who may be at particular risk for harm due to their drinking patterns or to certain factors or conditions; approaches to discourage harmful drinking patterns and encourage patterns that are beneficial and contribute to quality of life; information that can be used to educate both the public and those involved in policy development about drinking patterns and outcomes.
Applying the ICAP Blue Book
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The Blue Book consists of four tools that can be used together or individually in developing comprehensive and balanced policy approaches.
The Introduction to the Blue Book lays out the theoretical underpinnings to a policy approach based on drinking patterns and their relationship with outcomes. Also discussed is the use of targeted interventions to address specific problems, populations, or drinking patterns. The Introduction delineates the regulatory and government framework within which policy development should occur and outlines the rights and responsibilities of all those with a role to play. This framework is predicated upon the desirability of cooperation and partnership.
With an emphasis on drinking patterns and targeted interventions that can be tailored to particular needs, problems, and populations, the Blue Book offers a roadmap to policy development around alcohol. It consists of a series of Modules. Each Module addresses a specific policy area by laying out the essential elements to be considered, based on sound and balanced research evidence. At the end of each Module is a set of Policy Options, a menu of elements that can be included in dealing with a given issue. Inclusion of the Policy Options is intended to give the Blue Book flexibility, allowing it to be adapted in response to cultural or situational needs.
The Modules may be used individually where single issues need to be addressed. For example, those interested in offering advice to pregnant women, may consult MODULE 10: Drinking and Pregnancy to identify areas to consider, advice that may be offered, and approaches and recommendations that have been developed and applied elsewhere.
When used together, several modules can offer approaches to addressing clusters of related issues. For instance, on the broad topic of alcohol and road traffic safety, MODULE 15: Drinking and Driving provides the general and basic information and reviews a menu of interventions and policies that can be applied. In addition, MODULE 16: Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits offers specific guidance on setting standards and ensuring enforcement. Finally, MODULE 4: Responsible Hospitality addresses approaches to reducing the potential for harm through indirect targeted measures with bearing on drinking and driving.
The Blue Book may also be used in developing a full-spectrum approach to alcohol policies at the local, national, and/or regional levels. It addresses the main areas that require attention, offering guidance for each of them. Taken together, the Modules identify key areas in which policy measures and targeted approaches are needed.
Examples of Targeted Interventions, a comprehensive annotated listing of initiatives that have been implemented around the world, is the Blue Book’s third tool. It is intended for use with individual Modules, serving as illustrations of what has been done to address a particular issue. Examples range from complex initiatives that are labor intensive and costly to simple interventions that can be easily applied where resources are scant. Each example includes contact information for obtaining additional resources and guidance on implementation.
The Annexes to the Blue Book consist of background ICAP materials relevant to individual issues and/or to policy development as a whole. ANNEX 1: The Basics about Alcohol provides the general information about alcohol and its effects and can be used to complement educational approaches. ANNEX 2: Industry Codes of Practice around Self- regulation focuses on self-regulatory practices of the beverage alcohol industry.
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Since the ICAP Blue Book is intended for building policies where existing ones are inadequate or ineffective, or where policies are altogether absent, it can be used by a variety of stakeholders.
The individual Modules and supporting materials have been developed with a diverse range of users in mind, offering a level of information that will not daunt those with little experience but will also satisfy those with a more complex level of knowledge. Individuals wishing to explore an issue in greater detail are also provided with a list of references at the end of each Module.
Intended users of the Blue Book materials include:
- policy-makers and their advisors on alcohol and other health-related issues;
- legislators developing specific approaches around alcohol;
- local and community leaders seeking to address particular problems and reduce potential harm within the community;
- practitioners in the prevention field interested in developing approaches based on proven practice;
- educators with a particular interest in health issues;
- medical and healthcare professionals who wish to address alcohol issues and develop approaches around particular problems.
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Effective policy development that involves a variety of stakeholders relies on bringing together differing viewpoints and the ability to overcome obstacles that often stand in the way of dialogue. This can often best be achieved through a third party acting as mediator and facilitator. This third party should be seen as credible by all those involved, be able to garner support from all stakeholders, and, in its own right, be able to provide technical expertise and commitment to develop and implement the process.
ICAP is well placed to play such a role and over the years has demonstrated the ability to successfully reconcile agendas and identify common ground at the local, national, and international levels. Its many projects in countries around the world have brought together sometimes unlikely partners working towards a common goal.