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Drug Alcohol Rev. 2011 Jan;30(1):47-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00195.x.

Embedding routine alcohol screening and brief interventions in a rural general hospital.

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Professional Development Unit, Northeast Health Wangaratta, Wangaratta, Australia.



Alcohol screening and brief intervention approaches (SBI) are strongly supported by evidence, but few health-care facilities have successfully introduced and sustained routine SBI.


This paper describes the first 2 years of implementing SBI in an Australian rural general hospital. The SBI project aims were to universally screen presentations to Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW), to provide brief interventions to people screening at medium risk of harm from drinking and enhanced referral for persons screening at high risk.


In 2007 and 2008, the NHW SBI project conducted 11,079 screens for alcohol use disorders using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Screening Test screening tool. Eighty-five per cent of persons screened at low risk of alcohol-related problems, 11% at medium risk and 4% at high risk.


Policy and planning bodies and hospital management's support and the appointment of a dedicated project worker are critical to successful SBI implementation.


It is possible to establish a SBI service in a rural general hospital setting. The NHW SBI project broadened the focus from treatment of persons with severe dependency to detection, early intervention and prevention for the larger, more easily treated, cohort of persons drinking at hazardous/harmful but non-dependent levels. The challenge for any organisation is to maintain routine SBI deployment over the long term.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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