Last updated: 09 Sep, 2019

Health promotion foundation VicHealth has today announced a new ground-breaking research project that will improve screening for alcohol harm at GP clinics.

The project, funded as part of VicHealth’s $400,000 Impact Grants research program, will support doctors and other health professionals to better detect when a patient is at risk from alcohol harm and how health professionals can help to stop or reduce their drinking.

The Monash University project aims to support GPs to better detect alcohol harm in their patients and help them to reduce their drinking.

VicHealth Acting CEO Dr Lyn Roberts AO said it was important to screen for alcohol harm as it’s a major risk factor for chronic illnesses and some cancers, including liver, bowel and breast cancer.

“Alcohol products can be hugely detrimental to our health, in fact, one in five breast cancer cases in Australia are caused by consumption of alcohol products,” Dr Roberts said.

“Alcohol products can also damage our communities through family violence, assaults and car accidents.

“We know that screening for alcohol use and providing personalised advice works and helps people to reduce their risk of alcohol harm, but it is not well established or used. These projects are exciting as they work within existing health services making it easier for people to access screening and support.

“For many Victorians their GP is who they trust most when it comes to their health. This research will explore how we can use general check-ups to better prevent alcohol-harm.”

GP and Monash University Lecturer Dr Liz Sturgiss will co-design the alcohol screening program with GPs. She said the project had enormous potential to reduce alcohol harm in low-income communities.

“There is good evidence that conversations between patients and a GP they trust can mean people drink less,” Dr Sturgiss said.

“However we know these conversations don’t happen as often as they could. We want to change this, making it easier for GPs to talk with their patients about their drinking and its health implications.”

Also funded as part of VicHealth’s Impact Grants research program is a Deakin University and Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) project evaluating the most effective policies- whether it be campaigns or pricing interventions, for example, to improve nutrition in Aboriginal communities.

Dr Roberts said it was critical that health programs are culturally appropriate and acceptable, and resonate with the communities they’re aiming to help.

“Poor diet and obesity are responsible for 15 per cent of the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. We need better evidence to show which initiatives are effective and we also need to work with Aboriginal communities to understand what will work to improve people’s nutrition,” she said.

More information about VicHealth’s Impact Grants is available here:

Research projects awarded Impact Grants:


Research title


Dr Liz Sturgiss, Department of General Practice, Monash University

Partners: North West Melbourne Primary Health Network, enliven and The Health Issues Centre.

Working with practitioners to reduce alcohol related harm – embedding brief interventions in Victorian general practices

Interventions in GP clinics can lead to meaningful reductions in alcohol consumption.

The project will co-design a new approach to support GPs to screen and intervene for alcohol-related harm with patients on low-incomes.


This project will also use a novel approach to collect follow up data with patients by utilising SMS messaging.

Dr Jennifer Browne, Global Obesity Centre, Deakin University

Partners: VACCHO

Food and nutrition policies for Aboriginal Victorians: Evidence and Advocates for Change.

Poor diets and obesity are responsible for approximately 15% of the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians (AIHW 2016).

This project will empower Victorian Aboriginal communities to identify and prioritise policies that aim to reduce consumption of unhealthy food and increase consumption of vegetables.