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Original Research

Alcohol harm and cost at a community level: data from police and health

Submitted: 22 October 2007
Revised: 6 March 2008
Published: 9 April 2008

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Author(s) : Lesjak MS, McMahon GJ, Zanette L.

Margaret LesjakGreg McMahonLoi Zanette

Citation: Lesjak MS, McMahon GJ, Zanette L.  Alcohol harm and cost at a community level: data from police and health. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2008; 8: 878. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=878 (Accessed 23 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction:††The Australian National Alcohol Strategy 2006-2009 recommends strengthening data collection at the local level, gathering information from emergency department (ED) attendees and, by integrating data sources, to develop a better understanding of alcohol- related harm. We piloted a method to estimate the number of alcohol-related presentations to ED and alcohol-related police incidents in a remote regional centre. We explore the practicality and benefits of integrating such alcohol related police and health data. Subjects and setting: Broken Hill Hospital is the district hospital that serves Broken Hill and surrounds in far west New South Wales, a population of approximately 20†000, over 90% of whom live in the town itself. Computerised records of all attendances are available. The Barrier police command is based in Broken Hill with 56†police.
Method:††Over two one-week periods a combination of a short patient questionnaire, nursesí assessment and concordance with Broken Hill police records were used to determine alcohol-related presentations.
Results:††Both health and police data showed seasonal variation, with alcohol-related incidents and costs doubling in warmer weather. Altogether 32†people (5% of all 602†presentations) were recorded as having consumed alcohol prior to the event that brought them to ED. From 765†events, police attended 118 (15%) alcohol-related incidents. While the two groups were essentially independent, they were very similar demographically. The majority (68%) were males aged in their 30s who came to ED/ police notice in the late evening/early morning, mainly in the weekend. By integrating police data, routine ED data and an ED survey, a more comprehensive picture of alcohol-related harms emerged.
Conclusion:††Future research would benefit from the use of project officers in ED and in the police force, to improve compliance and data completeness. A more comprehensive local picture would also include data from other agencies dealing with alcohol. A longer study is necessary to confirm the preliminary data on seasonal variation.

Key words: alcohol, emergency department, injury prevention/ early intervention, intoxication, police incidents/crime.

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