By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

A new trouble-spot identifying strategy reliant on emergency room data of alcohol-related injury will be rolled out in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, based on the work of Welsh professor Johnathan Shepherd.

Professor Shepherd’s ‘Cardiff Model’ strategy, in partnership with Deakin University, recently won a $1.4 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The strategy is based on the collating of anonymous data from hospital emergency departments to identify epicentres of alcohol-fuelled, violent and injurious behaviour. This data is then supplied to police and public health organisations.

The model won Professor Shepherd the Stockholm Prize for Criminology in 2008, after it had been implemented in Cardiff between 2002 and 2007, with a reduction of over 30 per cent in aggravated assaults, and a more than 40 per cent reduction in hospital admissions, as reported in the British Medical Journal.

As given to the NHMRC, the plain description for the strategy was: ‘The proposed project is a system change within partner emergency departments, providing them the information and tools to act on both risky alcohol consumption in individual patients and the sources of alcohol in the community which cause the harm they experience. Most importantly, the proposed public health interventions act as a tool for emergency departments to regularly raise awareness with the public and policymakers regarding the impact of alcohol on patients, clinicians and hospitals.’

In Australia, the Cardiff Model will be rolled out by Deakin University, with Professor Peter Miller at its head. Professor Miller teaches in the university’s School of Psychology and is Professor of Violence Prevention and Addiction Studies.

While the NSW State Government is already using hospital emergency department data to justify its lockout legislation, Professor Miller suggests that the Cardiff Model will change the kind of data available and can better influence public policy.

“Data sharing is about the quality of data. Currently, [hospital] data doesn’t capture all incidences of alcohol-related intoxication – our model is more comprehensive, looking at the sources of harm and how much is consumed on the night of admission to the emergency department.

“So we’ll look at all alcohol-related attendance to emergency departments, including intoxication, but also things like liver cancers. Because we’re looking at people’s consumption on the day, the model is designed to give accurate sources of alcohol-related behaviour and injury in the community.

“Having the more comprehensive data will better inform public policy.”

Professor Miller gave an example of how the model has been implemented in Wales.

‘In Cardiff, problem venues will be identified and intervened with. Emergency clinicians and police can confront these venues and ask them to moderate their behaviour.”

While Miller would not be drawn on giving his opinion on the lockout laws, he did suggest that there was a more effective strategy in place to combat alcohol-related injury.

‘Lockout laws don’t have a strong evidentiary basis for success, whereas last drinks policies have a very strong evidentiary basis for their effectiveness. By implementing last drinks policies, less stress and dependency is placed on police and emergency departments later in the night.’

Professor Miller did also make the point that no one strategy would eradicate belligerent behaviour on its own.

 “None of these strategies are panaceas in their own right.”

The Cardiff Model will be implemented in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra over a five-year period.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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