Funding for study to investigate post COVID alcohol related harms

8 Jul 2022

Turning Point is excited to announce that the National Addiction and Mental Health Surveillance Unit (NAMHSU) has received funding from VicHealth to research alcohol-related harms in the post COVID era.


NAMHSU receives grant from VicHealth

The NAMHSU team at Turning Point have received a grant from VicHealth to fund their innovative research project which seeks to understand alcohol-related harms in the post COVID era.

Using surveillance data provided by ambulance services, NAMHSU aims to identify geographic ‘hotspot’ areas of alcohol availability and harm, and create appropriate localised policies to reduce these issues.

Deputy Strategic Lead, National Addiction and Mental Health Surveillance Unit, Turning Point, Dr Rowan Ogeil said that there have been a lot of changes to alcohol availability and use across the community due to COVID, which needs to be addressed.

“Previous research has reported elevated alcohol-harms in relation to major events, but has often focussed on metropolitan areas only. We want to expand our understanding of harms into regional areas as well as cities, and understand how things have changed compared to pre-covid times.”

Dealing with alcohol related harm post COVID

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Victorian Government relaxed licensing regulation laws to allow more businesses to sell and deliver alcohol.

Between 2019 and 2020, the sale of alcohol in Victoria increased by an extra $15 million each week. This increasing trend continued in 2021, with first quarter sales of alcohol into homes being $187 million higher than the same period pre-pandemic in 2019.

With a lack of evidence about where and when alcohol related harms occur and who is most at risk post COVID, NAMHSU’s study will be essential in filling in these gaps.

“Assessing changes in alcohol-related harms in the post-COVID-19 recovery is timely, as changes to liquor licensing and harms associated with new norms post-COVID may differ significantly from pre-COVID,” Dr Ogeil said.

“This information can directly inform policy and interventions to reduce these harms in the future.”

Strengthening partnerships with Ambulance Victoria, Victoria Department of Health and AIHW

The NAMHSU Team will soon commence this two year research project and will use both a unique surveillance system and co-design method to conduct their research.

“Our mixed-methods approach, which will enable key stakeholders, treatment services, government, and those who have lived experience of alcohol-related harms to be directly involved in our research.” 

Turning Point will partner with Ambulance Victoria (AV), the Victoria Department of Health, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on the research project.

All three organisations have a long-standing partnership with Turning Point and working together on this project to understand alcohol-related harms post COVID will ensure these partnerships continue well into the future.

“This research builds on a long and productive history of collaboration between Ambulance Victoria and Turning Point and further highlights the value of using ambulance data to examine population health trends and policy impacts,” Director, Centre for Research and Evaluation, Ambulance Victoria Professor Karen Smith said.

“Of particular interest is the co-design approach of this research which will further strengthen the relationship between Turning Point and collaborating partners such as AV and the Victorian Department of Health.”