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Evidence into action: implementing alcohol screening and brief interventions in the UK Armed Forces

Abstract

Introduction Alcohol-related harm continues to represent a major public health problem and previous evidence suggests that alcohol misuse within the UK Armed Forces is higher than in the general population. The aim was to introduce a population-level primary care intervention with an existing evidence base to identify and support Service Personnel whose drinking places them at greater risk of harm.

Implementation Following successful piloting, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C) brief screening tool was introduced as part of routine dental inspections by Defence Primary Healthcare (DPHC) dentists. Alcohol brief intervention (ABI) advice and signposting to support services was offered to personnel identified as being at increased risk and recorded in the patient’s electronic health record.

Achievements to date Patients attending DPHC Dental Centres are now routinely offered AUDIT-C with 74% (109 459) personnel screened in the first 12 months rising to over 276 000 at 24 months, representing the single largest use of AUDIT-C and ABIs in a military population to date.

Discussion Introduction of AUDIT-C has seen Defence successfully deliver a whole population alcohol initiative, overcoming implementation barriers to demonstrate the flexibility of a dental workforce to deliver a public health intervention at scale and contributing towards promoting positive attitudes towards alcohol use. The initiative represents a first step towards the goal of a standardised alcohol screening and treatment pathway across DPHC while recognising that the Defence Medical Services are only one aspect of the broader public health approach required to tackle alcohol-related harm in Service Personnel.

  • dental
  • alcohol
  • public health
  • primary care

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