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Whitlam G, Dinh M, Rodgers C, Muscatello DJ, McGuire R, Ryan T, Thackway S. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2016; 35(6): 693-701.


Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health, Sydney, Australia.


(Copyright © 2016, John Wiley and Sons)






INTRODUCTION AND AIMS: Acute harm from heavy drinking episodes is an increasing focus of public health policy, but capturing timely data on acute harms in the population is challenging. This study aimed to evaluate the precision of readily available administrative emergency department (ED) data in public health surveillance of acute alcohol harms. DESIGN AND METHODS: We selected a random sample of 1000 ED presentations assigned an ED diagnosis code for alcohol harms (the 'alcohol syndrome') in the New South Wales, Australia, automatic syndromic surveillance system. The sample was selected from 68 public hospitals during 2014. Nursing triage free-text fields were independently reviewed to confirm alcohol consumption and classify each presentation into either an 'acute' or 'chronic' harm. Positive predictive value (PPV) for acute harm was calculated, and predictors of acute harm presentations were estimated using logistic regression.

RESULTS: The PPV of the alcohol syndrome for acute alcohol harm was 53.5%. Independent predictors of acute harm were ambulance arrival [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 3.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.4-4.7], younger age (12-24 vs. 25-39 years: aOR = 3.4, 95% CI 2.2-5.3), not being admitted (aOR 2.2, 95% CI 1.5-3.2) and arriving between 10 pm and 5.59 am (aOR 2.1, 95% CI 1.5-2.8). PPV among 12 to 24-year-olds was 82%.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: The alcohol syndrome provides moderate precision as an indicator of acute alcohol harms presenting to the ED. Precision for monitoring acute harm in the population is improved by filtering the syndrome by the strongest independent predictors of acute alcohol harm presentations. [Whitlam G, Dinh M, Rodgers C, Muscatello DJ, McGuire R, Ryan T, Thackway S. Diagnosis-based emergency department alcohol harm surveillance: What can it tell us about acute alcohol harms at the population level? Drug Alcohol Rev 2016;00:000-000].

2016 The Authors. Drug and Alcohol Review published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs.

Language: en


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