A new study has found that administrative health information can help address alcohol-related harm in young people. Binge drinking and alcohol abuse is a growing problem among young people in many countries.
A 2009 study showed that almost 60 percent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 reported drinking alcohol in the previous month, with 22 percent reporting heavy drinking and 20 percent experiencing alcohol-related harm.
In Australia, 52 percent of serious traffic injuries and 32 percent of hospital admissions for those between the ages of 15 and 24 are related to alcohol abuse.
The authors of a new study, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), suggests that routinely collected administrative data can help clinicians identify new trends and predictors of health outcomes for infectious and chronic diseases, as well as help assess substance abuse disorders and related harm. The authors note that the Australian Illicit Drug Reporting System and the National Household Surveys of Drug Use are good examples of useful systems.
Dr. Mark Asbridge of Dalhousie University, co-author of the study, said that it is important to choose measures of alcohol-related harm that are reliable across different jurisdictions, sensitive to change, and tailored to specific policy interventions.
Data such as hospital admissions and discharges, billing statements, and trauma registries can provide helpful information on alcohol-related conditions, the authors state. In Canada, provinces collect most of these data. The authors said that measures should be relevant to young people and their behavior versus measuring chronic diseases, which are apparent in the long-term.
Relevant measures include accidental alcohol-related injuries (such as traffic accidents, falls, and alcohol poisoning) and intentional injuries (such as self-inflicted harm or deliberate harm against or by another).
The authors suggested adapting a model for national surveillance of alcohol-related harm from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s work in diabetes and mental health. The researchers wrote that routine administrative data can contribute to the understanding of alcohol-related harm across jurisdictions and within target populations, such as young people. The authors believe this data will help improve the quality of information on alcohol-related harm, which could help prevent future harm.