We know that addiction does not discriminate, but it does affect and harm certain people more than others. By identifying vulnerable populations, we are able to recognise the patterns and determinants of addiction and associated harms, enabling us to build evidence-based research that informs the alcohol and drug sector, public policy and the community. This research theme investigates at-risk populations, emerging trends and harms.

Our projects include National Ambulance Surveillance System, alcohol and other drug stats, Google.org - Artificial Intelligence for social impact, drinking cultures, and the use of Ambulance surveillance data to identify alcohol and drug related violence.

Health surveillance

Health surveillance is 'an ongoing, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice' (WHO, 2020) and is an important component of the public health response to disease.

Health surveillance data is used:

  • as an early warning system to identify diseases or conditions;
  • to understand how a disease or condition affects and how;
  • to inform policy and strategies to intervene and minimise the impact or spread of that disease or condition, and
  • to measure the impact of an intervention.

Using our globally unique health surveillance system The National Ambulance Surveillance System (NASS), Turning Point codes ambulance clinical records to capture health surveillance data on alcohol and other drugs, suicide and self-harm. The clinical records from alcohol, drug, suicide and self-harm – related ambulance attendances - are systematically coded by a team of specially trained researchers so that detailed information contained in these records can be extracted and used to track trends in acute harm at a community level.


Alcohol and other drugs

A team of specially trained research assistants based at Turning Point code ambulance records, which is analysed to identify changing trends and patterns in AOD use across Australia.

Suicide and mental health

Providing timely and robust data in the areas of self-harm and mental health to inform interventions, patterns and at-risk populations.

Alcohol and other drug statistics and mapping

Alcohol and other drug stats is an interactive statistics and mapping website capturing information on harms related to alcohol and the use of illicit and pharmaceutical drugs in Victoria.

Google for Social Good - Using Artificial Intelligence (AI)

This project utilises the data coded as part of the National Ambulance Surveillance System to develop machine learning techniques that will enable automated coding to augment the work of human coders.

Risk factors and populations


Our Sleep projects investigate the effect of commonly used drugs on sleep, why sleep is important in recovery, and how poor sleep is linked to poor physical and mental health.

Injury and violence

Examines ambulance data to inform patterns and trends of alcohol and other drug misuse, self-harm and mental health for violent incidents.

Suicide and self-harm

Using data for evidence-based interventions targeted at at-risk populations to reduce the rates of suicide.

Veterans wellbeing

Explores the relationships between Australian Defence Force veterans’ social networks, identities and wellbeing following the transition from the military to civilian life.

Drinking cultures

Hospitality cultures study

Addresses the cultures of risky drinking amongst male hospitality students and the hospitality staff that mentor them.

Men's risky drinking study

Investigates factors influencing risky drinking practices among male sports players, rural sports supporters, hospitality workers, and corporate workers.

Alcohol culture change projects

Evaluates Alcohol Culture Change as part of VicHealth’s Alcohol Culture Change Initiative.

Public drunkenness

Explores the experiences of people affected by Victorian State public drunkenness laws to inform the development of public health responses to public drunkenness.