Alex updated profile pictureWorking title: Complex implementation: a case study of Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy

Supervisors: Dr Katherine Smith and Dr Sarah Morton
Funding Body: What Works Scotland

Abstract:This PhD study is investigating the local implementation of Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy and the use of evidence in this process. The public health problem of alcohol misuse in Scotland is significant, and the Scottish Government’s policy response has been a ‘whole-population’ approach to reducing alcohol-related harm in Scotland (Beeston et al., 2011; Scottish Government, 2009). However, the literature shows that an understanding of how the process of alcohol policy implementation occurs at Local Authority level in Scotland has not yet been attained. The literature also shows there is limited knowledge about processes of local health policy implementation; the use of evidence in policy implementation; and consideration of these issues with an approach informed by complex systems thinking.
The theoretical framework of this project will be informed by complex systems thinking (Best and Holmes, 2010). The project will apply a qualitative case study method. Data collection will include key stakeholder interviews at local and national level, as well as documentary data such as policy documents or meeting minutes. Analysis will be conducted iteratively during data collection and will be carried out thematically.
This study aims to contribute new research on policy implementation processes at sub-national level and the way actors at sub-national level use evidence in their decision-making about implementation. It will also contribute to theoretical debates on the use of complex systems thinking to inform or frame the study of alcohol policy and its implementation. Practically, the project will inform future health policy development and delivery by generating knowledge on: (i) how Local Authorities adapt and implement national preventative health policies; (ii) how evidence is used by Local Authorities during the planning and process of implementation; and (iii) what the implications are of this knowledge for the future development of national preventative policies that can be effectively implemented at local level.

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