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Increasing alcohol restrictions and rates of serious injury in four remote Australian Indigenous communities

Stephen A Margolis, Valmae A Ypinazar, Reinhold Muller and Alan Clough
Med J Aust 2011; 194 (10): 503-506.

Summary

Objective: To document rates of serious injuries in relation to government alcohol restrictions in remote Australian Indigenous communities.

Design and setting: An ecological study using Royal Flying Doctor Service injury retrieval data, before and after changes in legal access to alcohol in four remote Australian Indigenous communities, Queensland, 1 January 1996 – 31 July 2010.

Main outcome measures: Changes in rates of aeromedical retrievals for serious injury, and proportion of retrievals for serious injury, before and after alcohol restrictions.

Results: After alcohol restrictions were introduced in 2002–2003, retrieval rates for serious injury dropped initially, and then increased in the 2 years before further restrictions in 2008 (average increase, 2.34 per 1000 per year). This trend reversed in the 2 years after the 2008 restrictions (average decrease, 7.97 per 1000 per year). There was a statistically significant decreasing time trend in serious-injury retrieval rates in each of the four communities for the period 2 years before the 2002–2003 restrictions, 2 years before the 2008 restrictions, and the final 2 years of observations (2009–2010) (P < 0.001 for all four communities combined). Overall, serious-injury retrieval rates dropped from 30 per 1000 in 2008 to 14 per 1000 in 2010, and the proportions of serious-injury retrievals decreased significantly for all four communities.

Conclusion: The absolute and the proportional rates of serious-injury retrievals fell significantly as government restrictions on legal access to alcohol increased; they are now at their lowest recorded level in 15 years.

  • Stephen A Margolis1
  • Valmae A Ypinazar2
  • Reinhold Muller2
  • Alan Clough2

  • 1 Education and Research Unit, Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section), Cairns, QLD.
  • 2 James Cook University, Townsville, QLD.

Correspondence: steve.133@bigpond.com

Acknowledgements: 

We thank the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) for providing access to their data.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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