Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Gambling research grant will pave the way to guide harm interventions

Dr Charles Livingstone will lead an expert team in a new project recently funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to identify effective policy interventions to prevent gambling related harm.

Dr Livingstone and his team have secured $146,000 for the innovative, world-first project which seeks to draw lessons for gambling harm prevention and minimisation from other significant public health programs including: tobacco control, physical activity, illicit drug use and blood-borne disease and alcohol harm reduction.

He says that the current evidence-base for intervention strategies centre on the ‘responsible gambling’ message to reduce gambling harm but that evidence for current interventions is limited.

“There are major gaps in the literature on gambling harm and we hope this rigorous examination of public health strategies and interventions can be adapted to assist in the prevention or minimisation of gambling harm by identifying the most effective policy-drivers for change,” Dr Livingstone said.

Dr Livingstone has said that harm reduction priorities should be focused on the gambling forms and modes most strongly associated with harm such as poker machine and online gambling, in an Australian context, with particular emphasis on the Victorian context.

“Unfortunately, government and industry focus almost entirely on downstream responses in the gambling field at present, and opportunities for prevention are not well utilised,” said Dr Livingstone.

“This means the focus is on treating problem gamblers, which is of course essential. Unfortunately, interventions to prevent harm occurring in the first place are not well developed and need significant attention” he said.

The collaborative project seeks to address three key research questions geared towards isolating which effective policies in other areas of public health could be translated to gambling reduction or intervention strategies.

“We’ll be looking closely at what public health interventions will best translate to gambling interventions, and which have demonstrated efficacy and cost-effectiveness in their fields,” said Dr Livingstone.

Collaborators for the project include a number of eminent researchers with international expertise, including Professor Ron Borland from the Cancer Council of Victoria, Professor Robin Room and Dr Michael Livingston from La Trobe University, Associate Professor Ben Smith from SPHPM and Professor Paul Dietze and Associate Professor Mark Stoove from the Burnet Institute.

The project will also involve Dr Anna Thomas, Dr Angela Rintoul and Dr Rebecca Jenkinson from the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) within the Australian Institute for Family Studies. The project will run to September 2017.

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