Health Systems faculty member, Dr. Connie Hoe, is also core faculty of the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU). JH-IIRU hopes to help reduce road traffic injuries in low-and middle-income countries by providing monitoring and evaluation support to road safety risk factors such as helmet use, speed, drink driving and seatbelt use for projects, including the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) project.

Dr. Hoe, who is interested in the politics of health policy, is now looking into the issue of drink driving by studying how the alcohol industry impacts policy for road safety, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). While consumption per capita is greater in high-income countries, the mortality burden is greater in low-income countries.

The alcohol market potential has driven the industry to LMICs where trade liberalization has increased. Citizens in LMICs are also growing more receptive to the lures of the industry due to increasing disposable income and a larger youth population. The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety found that the percentage of drivers testing above the legal limit varies and also differs widely across the board, however high-income countries were more likely than LMICs to have drink driving legislation in line with best practices.

Today, the alcohol industry functions much like the tobacco industry of 50 years ago. By targeting consumers in LMICs, the industry hopes that their marketing efforts will have a wider reach and not as much oversight. One of the major reasons for the lack of effective drink driving policies in LMICs is the alcohol industry’s opposition to meaningful regulation around the issues of drink driving and road safety. However, it’s not just LMICs that have cause to be concerned – in June 2016, Formula One (F1), the premier form of auto-racing, signed a deal with Heineken that allowed them to become a sponsor at sporting events. This partnership means that Heineken gets to create a larger exposure to alcohol in an already more susceptible audience.

Health Systems and JH-IIRU faculty hope to influence the aggressive tactics taken by the alcohol industry by providing evidence on the negative outcomes of alcohol marketing, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Read more about BIGRS’ work here