Drink Tank

Collaborating with clinicians to reduce alcohol harm and impact culture and policy

Emergency departments (ED) internationally are at the forefront of dealing with the harmful effects of alcohol, yet ED alcohol-related presentation data is not routinely collected in patient data sets.

Led by Associate Professor Egerton-Warburton, the Alcohol Harm in Emergency Departments (AHED) project aimed to provide an evidence base to advocate for measures to reduce alcohol harm in Australian communities.

Our project ran for three years, and had three aims. The first aim was to quantify alcohol harm on a national scale in Australia and New Zealand for the first time; the second was to document the effects of alcohol-related violence and aggression on clinicians in ED and other patients; and the third was to coordinate a media campaign with PHAA and FARE to get that message out there with the aim to change culture and policy.

The AHED project involved over 100 EDs who represented metropolitan, regional, rural and remote populations in all jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand, and included snapshot surveys, a seven-day observation study in eight ED and a clinician survey.

The snapshot surveys were conducted in over 100 hospitals in between 2013 and 2017, and demonstrated that one in seven patients are in the ED at high alcohol times. The seven-day survey in eight EDs that has confirmed the snapshot findings and found that almost one in ten patients are alcohol-related, with more than one in ten ED clinicians having experienced alcohol-related verbal and physical aggression.

Associate Professor Egerton-Warburton believes that by sharing compelling stories and data from clinicians about the harmful effects of alcohol, a compelling argument for policy change can be made.

These are preventable, and we’ve seen and demonstrated, that with simple interventions like reducing access to alcohol – particularly early closing times – you can dramatically reduce the attendances to ED.

Working with clinicians can really provide a powerful synergistic collaboration to have a greater impact on culture and policy change.

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Drink Tank aims to generate meaningful commentary and debate about alcohol policy, and to provide a platform for all members of the Australian community to share their views and concerns.

Our goal is for the Drink Tank community to engage in robust discussion about alcohol, highlighting a broad spectrum of views and voices, and ultimately to raise the profile of alcohol as an issue of national importance.

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