Alcohol is second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of death and hospitalisation. VicHealth works to build better attitudes, social norms and behaviours through social marketing, community engagement and partnerships.

Our 3-year priority: More people actively seeking the best ways to reduce alcohol-related harm

Alcohol is one of the top 10 avoidable causes of disease and death in Victoria1. Its negative impacts on individual Victorians, their families and the broader community is estimated to cost $4.3 billion every year2.

Alcohol-related harm is a significant preventable health issue. Each day in Australia, alcohol causes 15 deaths and 430 hospital admissions, placing a significant burden on the healthcare system3. Alcohol also causes a range of social problems that affect the drinker and those around them.

Alcohol culture change

In partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, VicHealth developed a two-phase campaign to drive the attitudinal change needed to achieve a more moderate drinking culture in Victoria. 

The first phase, Name That Point, was an online community conversation with young Victorians. This informed the No Excuse Needed campaign, which continued to champion a more moderate drinking culture via a positively framed social marketing campaign. 

The high profile campaign, which ran from September to December 2014, used humour to show that people shouldn’t feel the need to make up an excuse to say no to a drink. By highlighting the fact that moderate drinking is the norm and that most young Victorians don’t intend to get drunk, we aimed to reduce the broader acceptance of binge drinking and drunkenness in Victoria.

1/3 of respondents reduced drinking     55% would think twice about getting drunk

Alcohol-related harm

When attempting to tackle an issue such as alcohol-related harm, it is essential to have an accurate picture of the situation so that efforts can be effectively targeted.

VicHealth and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) funded the Alcohol’s Burden of Disease in Australia report, released in July 20143.

Key findings include:
  • 5554 deaths and 157,132 hospitalisations were caused by alcohol in 2010
  • the number of deaths increased by 62 per cent in the last 10 years.

A Turning Point and VicHealth study – Inequities in Alcohol-Related Chronic Disease in Victoria – revealed men and the middle-aged are among those most likely to suffer from wholly alcohol-caused chronic diseases. 

Victorians in regional areas and those from socioeconomically disadvantaged groups were found to be at greater risk of hospitalisation and death from alcohol-related chronic disease. These groups do not necessarily consume more alcohol than others, and in some instances are drinking less. It is important to focus beyond consumption to other equity factors that may increase a person’s vulnerability to alcohol-related harm.

Water in licenced premises trial

While licenced premises in Victoria are required by law to provide free drinking water to their patrons, no research had been done on what things might increase its access and consumption.

VicHealth set out to change this. In collaboration with the Behavioural Insights Team as part of our Leading Thinkers Initiative, we conducted trials within four licenced premises. 

Three different interventions were trialled. A combination of observational data, bar sales data, and patron and bar staff interviews was used to see what impact each intervention had on water consumption. The next steps for this project will be to refine the interventions and carry out a second, longer trial.

Our research will help licensed premises to improve the supply, accessibility and promotion of drinking water.

Innovation Challenge: Alcohol

VicHealth offered a share of $395,000 to projects that could change Victoria’s drinking culture by either reducing the amount Victorians drink or increasing the acceptability of saying no to a drink.

Work is now underway on the four winning projects: 

Enough is Enough – an app to allow emergency department clinicians to identify hazardous drinkers and offer them a Brief Intervention (BI) and referral if required. 

Peer Modelling: Drinking Culture Change – an online program providing an alternative to legal penalties for offences related to alcohol.

Be a Brother – peer-led social media campaigns aimed at African men, which will define being a brother as somebody who takes care of their friends and doesn’t push them to drink more.  

#SoberSelfie – a campaign encouraging people to drink less by sharing a selfie of them looking sharp on their social media platforms. 

Back to VicHealth Highlights 2014-15

1 Department of Human Services 2005, Victorian Burden of Disease Study: mortality and morbidity 2001. Public Health Group, Department of Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
2 Victorian Auditor-General’s Office 2012, Effectiveness of justice strategies in preventing and reducing alcohol-related harm, Victorian Auditor- General’s Office, Melbourne.
3Gao C, Ogeil RP & Lloyd B 2014, Alcohol’s burden of disease in Australia, Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE) and VicHealth in collaboration with Turning Point, Canberra.