World-first sports club study curbs risky drinking

Jun 4 2015

As the nation battles with its binge drinking culture, in a world first an Australian program has been proven to reduce risky drinking by almost 40 per cent.

An independent study by the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Population Health and Deakin University has found that the Australian Drug Foundation’s Good Sports program reduces risky drinking by 37 per cent and the risk of alcohol-related harm by 42 per cent.

Australian Drug Foundation CEO John Rogerson said the randomised control trial is proof that community prevention programs can work in changing the way people drink – preventing harm before it happens.

“Alcohol is a massive problem in Australia – it kills 5,500 people and hospitalises about 175,000 a year. We still have a culture where people drink to get drunk,” Mr Rogerson said.

“Heavy drinking and sport have long been seen as inseparable, but this study shows that Good Sports can change even entrenched risky drinking cultures – it’s great news.”

“Reducing risky drinking reduces the burden on the health care system by reducing deaths, accidents and chronic disease, as well as helping sporting clubs be the family-friendly environments they should be.”

The Director of Hunter New England Population Health, Professor John Wiggers, said “not only does Good Sports reduce risky drinking at the club, it reduces the overall harm from alcohol both at the club and in other settings.”

“This is the first study in the world that demonstrates a community-based program in community sports can make a difference to reducing risky consumption by club members,” said Professor Wiggers.

“What this study says to governments and policy-makers and communities around the world is that here is an opportunity, here is an approach that local communities can adopt to make a difference at the local level in terms of community members being at risk from alcohol misuse.

“These particular results are striking because they demonstrate that a low-cost, community-based initiative can make a difference at a level that might be equivalent to something that was more clinically orientated or more intensive.

“Research conducted by KPMG using the trial data shows Good Sports saves the community and government millions of dollars a year treating alcohol-related harms. It found that every $1 invested in Good Sports clubs returns more than $4 saved in alcohol-related harm.”

The trial results have been published in the international Journal for Epidemiology and Community Health.

Good Sports is Australia’s largest preventive health program for the community sporting sector, with 7000 clubs involved nationally.

For more information about Good Sports visit www.goodsports.com.au.