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Dynamic simulation modelling sheds light on effective alcohol harm reduction approaches

1 November 2016

Dr Jo-An Atkinson
Dr Jo-An Atkinson

Injuries and emergency department presentations caused by alcohol consumption in NSW could fall by 20% in the next five years if the 2014 Liquor Licence reforms implemented in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD were rolled out state-wide, modelling by The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre has shown.

In an innovative approach, the Prevention Centre used sophisticated ‘dynamic simulation modelling’ to forecast the likely impact of a range of interventions individually and in combination. The modelled measures included 3am closing time of licensed venues, 1am lock outs, 10pm closing time of bottle shops and a freeze on approvals for liquor licences.

Key early findings presented today at the annual scientific conference of the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs include:

  • State-wide rollout of the NSW 2014 Liquor Licence reforms across NSW could result in a 20% reduction in acute alcohol-related harms such as injury, violence and poisonings, an 18.3% reduction in Emergency Department presentations and a 15.7% reduction in hospitalisations between 2017 and the end of 2021.
  • If these reforms were rolled out in conjunction with an extension of clinical treatment services to achieve 20% coverage of heavy drinkers, there could be a 35.1% reduction in acute alcohol-related harms, a 38.1% reduction in Emergency Department presentations and a 38.5% reduction in hospitalisations from 2017 to 2021 across NSW.
  • If the reforms were rolled out state-wide without the 1am ‘lock outs’, there could be a 13.8% reduction in acute alcohol-related harms, a 13.2% reduction in Emergency Department presentations and a 10.6% reduction in hospitalisations from 2017 to 2021.

“What this means is that we can quantify the trade-offs between different combinations of interventions, which could help inform an effective strategy for reducing alcohol related harms,” said the Prevention Centre’s Dr Jo-An Atkinson.

Dynamic simulation modelling is a sophisticated decision support tool that tests policies on a virtual population with key characteristics and drinking behaviours of the NSW population.

In collaboration with leading academic, policy and clinical experts in alcohol-related harms, the Prevention Centre built the model based on evidence from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, administrative data, burden of disease data, psychology and addiction literature as well as expert experience.

“This model provides a low-cost, low-risk way of understanding which policies or combinations of policies are likely to be the most effective over time, how and when to target interventions, and what the long term consequences will be both for individuals and for the community as a whole,” said Dr Atkinson.

The Prevention Centre is using dynamic simulation modelling to inform policy decisions in a range of health areas including childhood obesity, alcohol-related harm, gestational diabetes, suicide prevention and lung disease.

Helen Signy, Senior Communications Officer

Read more about the project

Read more about dynamic simulation modelling