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Supporting you to have helpful conversations with your patients about alcohol use

Aug. 08, 2022

Doctor and male patient in consultation WEB RGB

The Reducing Alcohol Related Harm (REACH) Project at Monash University supports GPs, nurses and other health care professionals to talk to their patients about alcohol use.

The Project has developed a package of free, practical, evidence-based and informative resources with input from GPs, nurses and community members.

Alcohol holds a central position in Australian culture and as such, can be difficult to address. However, alcohol is a major source of preventable harm, contributing a significant burden of cost to the community in relation to health and wellbeing, absenteeism, family violence, assaults, and motor vehicle accidents.

Alcohol use in Australia

The 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey identified 1 in 4 Queenslanders aged 14 and over consumed five or more drinks in one sitting on at least a monthly basis, and that 4 in 5 people had consumed alcohol in the previous 12 months.

The proportion of people drinking daily in Queensland in 2019 was higher than the national average (6.5 per cent compared with 5.4 per cent), and the proportion exceeding the lifetime risk guidelines was higher than the national average (20 per cent compared with 16.8 per cent) as was the proportion exceeding the single occasion risk guidelines (29 per cent compared with 25 per cent)i.

The role of general practice in reducing alcohol-related harm in communities

General practice can play an essential role in reducing alcohol-related harm in communities. Annually in Queensland there are more than 25 million GP attendances. This is on average 5.4 visits per person per year.

The REACH Project resources provide support for general practice in directing patients to practitioners who feel comfortable with addressing problematic alcohol consumption through brief interventions. Brief interventions involve assessing the amount of alcohol a person is using and offering individualised advice on how to reduce the associated health risks. These are effective in reducing the average amount of alcohol people consume in a week and are recommended in the RACGP Preventive Care guidelines for all patients over the age of 15 years.

Queensland alcohol consumption trends continued to show declines for younger adults while consumption among older adults increased. This demonstrates the success of public health strategies targeting young people and suggests that older age groups may also benefit from targeted alcohol reduction measures.

Resources

REACH resources are available in multiple languages and include:

  • Waiting room poster – this can be tailored with the names of GPs and nurses who are happy to talk about alcohol with patients.
  • The "Talk to me about alcohol" signs - can be placed in consultation rooms. The image can also be downloaded to put on your practice website or telehealth waiting room.

Download the REACH materials.

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