by Marita Lynagh, Rob Sanson-Fisher and Anthony Shakeshaft
Issue addressed: Health care providers play a pivotal role in preventing and reducing the burden associated with the misuse of alcohol, yet one group whose role in the alcohol offensive has not yet been systematically explored is ambulance officers. This study attempted to firstly, measure the prevalence and type of alcohol-related incidents attended by ambulance officers, and secondly, identify both current practice and perceived role in reducing alcohol-related harms.
Methods: A cross-sectional, descriptive survey of 264 NSW Ambulance Officers was conducted in June and July 2006.
Results: Results indicated that alcohol plays a significant role in the work of ambulance officers with estimates of 20% of all call-outs involving alcohol. Though the majority of officers indicated that they usually or always asked patients whether they have been drinking, far fewer asked about quantity and frequency of alcohol use and only small proportions undertook formal screenings, offered brief advice or referred patients to an appropriate drug and alcohol service.
Conclusion: Officers indicated that they are willing to undertake a number of other actions as part of alcohol-harm reduction efforts, suggesting that many ambulance officers consider health promotion to be integral to the role of an ambulance officer.
Key words: alcohol, ambulance, harm reduction.
Health Promotion Journal of Australia 2010; 21:19-25
Ambulance officers are ideally suited to identify and detect ‘at-risk’ drinkers and there are a number of unrealised opportunities for expansion of the health promotion role, which they appear willing to undertake.