In December, Priscilla Robinson lamented the national and international disasters of 2011.1 We start this year hoping for a better record but are fully aware that it takes time to replace infrastructure, even more time for natural habitat to recover and for communities to rebuild. There are also growing concerns about the way in which people caught up in disasters cope in the long term.2 For this reason, we start this Issue with a poem by Kim Jeffs to mark the third anniversary of the 2009 Victorian bushfires.
The main theme of this Issue is health policy. We draw your attention to the Editorial by Patrick Harris and colleagues in which they set out a program for engagement between researchers and policy makers so that health becomes a key consideration in both planning and development.
The Editorial by Deborah Gleeson and David Legge builds on the editorial by Fergus Woodward and Alistair Woodward on free trade policy.3 They set out the justification for policy process initiated by a Public Health Association Special Interest Group to generate a free trade policy that is responsive to current concerns about the impact of free trade negotiations.
We then turn to a number of areas where the evidence for policy change is now beyond question. The effectiveness of tobacco control policies is clear and here we use the example of the article by Daniella Germain and colleagues on the substantial decline in tobacco use in Victoria in the last quarter century. A policy of sustained multi-level interventions is required to ensure that tobacco use continues to decrease, especially in vulnerable communities.
Alcohol and intoxication is another area where firm policy action is justified, setting in place specifically targeted evidence-based interventions. Making a substantial part of this Issue, a number of well-researched articles draw attention to the need to control alcohol abuse. An example is the study of Shelley Rowe and colleagues in non-metropolitan New South Wales. They show that alcohol consumption is associated with violent crime and disorder. Intoxication is a factor for both perpetrators and victims.
The next section of this Issue examines existing policies for success or failure.
Please note that both Alistair Woodward and Jeanne Daly declared conflicts of interest in the articles respectively of Woodward and colleagues and Carman and colleagues. They did not participate in the assessment of these articles.