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Vital Strategies — Support for a Consortium on Alcohol Control Policy

Published: March 2021

Note: This page summarizes the rationale behind a GiveWell Incubation Grant to Vital Strategies. Vital Strategies staff reviewed this page prior to publication.

Summary

In January 2021, Vital Strategies received a GiveWell Incubation Grant of $100,000 to support its work convening a consortium of organizations to develop a $5-10 million proposal to work on advocacy and technical assistance for alcohol policy in low- and middle-income countries. Vital Strategies plans to use part of this funding to engage a consultant to help it develop the proposal, and to allocate the remaining funding among other members of the consortium.

The intervention

GiveWell has been exploring potentially promising giving opportunities within public health regulation.1 As part of this work, we've identified alcohol policy as an area with a large disease burden that may have cost-effective regulatory solutions.

There is a broad evidence base to support a set of interventions targeting the adverse health and social impacts of alcohol consumption, including alcohol taxes, restricting alcohol marketing, restricting alcohol availability, and policies to reduce drunk driving.2 We have not yet reviewed that evidence base in depth.

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates that the number of deaths caused by alcohol is 27% as large as the number caused by tobacco in low-, lower-middle-, and upper-middle-income countries.3 However, alcohol policy currently receives little philanthropic attention (we estimate less than $5 million annually;4 for comparison, IHME estimates that tobacco control received between $60 and $90 million in funding each year from 2015 to 2019).5

The organization

We think Vital Strategies is well-positioned to lead this consortium for several reasons:

  • Vital Strategies has played a similar role in noncommunicable disease and injury prevention programs funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies.6
  • Vital Strategies appears to be well-networked with other organizations working on alcohol control.7
  • We have a positive impression of Vital Strategies, based in part on conversations we've had with Bloomberg Philanthropies (Vital Strategies' major funder).8

Plans for follow-up

Once we see the consortium's proposal, we plan to investigate whether to recommend further funding to support the work in the proposal.

Internal forecasts

For this grant, we are recording the following forecast:

Confidence Prediction By time
80% We make a grant of over $1 million to Vital Strategies End of 2021

Sources

Document Source
Babor et al. 2010 Source
Bloomberg Philanthropies, "Reducing tobacco use" Source (archive)
GiveWell's non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Kristina Sperkova, April 4, 2019 Source
GiveWell's non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Kristina Sperkova, March 28, 2019 Source
GiveWell's non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Øystein Bakke, March 21, 2019 Source
GiveWell's non-verbatim summary of a conversation with Vital Strategies, May 22, 2019 Source
Hollander, "GiveWell’s plans for 2020," May 28, 2020 Source
IHME, Global Burden of Disease, GBD Results Tool, Alcohol use risk, deaths, low-, lower-middle, and upper-middle-income countries, 2019 (accessed March 5, 2021) Source (archive)
IHME, Global Burden of Disease, GBD Results Tool, Tobacco use risk, deaths, low-, lower-middle-, and upper-middle-income countries, 2019 (accessed March 5, 2021) Source (archive)
IHME, Viz Hub, Flows of global health financing, 2019 (accessed March 4, 2021) Source (archive)
Roodman 2015 Source (archive)
Vital Strategies, Capability statement 2019 Source (archive)
WHO, "WHO launches SAFER alcohol control initiative to prevent and reduce alcohol-related death and disability," September 28, 2018 Source (archive)