Revision of the 2009 Alcohol Guidelines

The National Health and Medical Research Council is currently revising the Australian Guidelines To Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol 2009. The Guidelines aim to provide health professionals, policy makers and the Australian community with high quality advice, based on the best available scientific evidence, on the health effects of drinking alcohol.

The Guidelines’ review will follow NHMRC's 9-step guideline development process. This process provides transparency and rigour to the evidence evaluation and decision making involved in guideline development. It also requires a number of quality assurance measures including:

  • Evaluation of the evidence on the health effects of alcohol consumption by an independent contractor.
  • Methodological review of the evidence evaluation protocol and draft report by an independent expert or organisation to ensure the process by which literature was searched for selected and appraised was conducted  in a robust and transparent manner.
  • Independent expert review of draft guidelines to ensure that the process by which the underpinning evidence has been interpreted and synthesised is appropriate and in accordance with the best available evidence.
  • Consideration of Guidelines by the Council of NHMRC, of which the Chief Medical /Health Officers of each state and territory are members.  This ensures that the NHMRC’s processes and standards have been met.
  • As required by the NHMRC Act (1992), all guidelines must undergo a public consultation period which provides stakeholders, including industry, with the opportunity to comment on the draft guidelines.

NHMRC has included the use of GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) for considering the body of evidence and drafting guideline recommendations.  GRADE is an internationally recognised system that allows judgements about the quality of evidence and the health advice based on those judgements to be as transparent and explicit as possible. GRADE is designed to be an explicit, comprehensive, transparent, and pragmatic way of making decisions.

Public Call for Evidence on the Health Effects of Alcohol Consumption

Work has commenced on an evaluation of the evidence on the health effects of alcohol consumption. The scope of the evidence evaluation covers the short and long term health risks and/or benefits of alcohol consumption, including various levels and patterns of drinking, in order to allow individuals to make informed decisions regarding their drinking habits.

As part of this process, NHMRC is inviting the Australian community to provide citations of relevant published studies to ensure that the Guidelines’ revision accurately reflect the latest evidence on drinking alcohol and health outcomes.

Public Call for Evidence on the Health Effects of Alcohol Consumption

Key Milestones

Public call for evidence 25 November 2016 – 13 January 2017
Evidence evaluation completed September 2017
Drafting of revised Guidelines completed December 2017
Public consultation on draft guidelines Early 2018 (open for 30 days)
Expert review of  draft guidelines Mid 2018
Final revised Guidelines issued Late 2018

The Alcohol Working Committee

In May 2016, NHMRC established the Alcohol Working Committee to provide technical and scientific advice on the methodology of the review and the interpretation of the evidence on the health effects of alcohol consumption. Committee members were selected for their expertise in the key areas of alcohol related research, addiction medicine, evidence based methodologies (e.g. epidemiology and systematic review methodology), child and maternal health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, primary care and consumer advocacy.

Terms of References

The Alcohol Working Committee will oversee and provide expertise in updating the Australian Guidelines for Reducing the Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol 2009 to ensure they reflect the best available evidence and are relevant to the Australian context. The responsibilities of the Alcohol Working Committee are outlined in the terms of reference:

  • Consider the process for development of the 2009 Guidelines and identify priority areas for review.
  • Guide the development of an evaluation of the evidence, including modelling, on the health effects of drinking alcohol, focusing on studies/data published since 2007.
  • Consider the outcomes of the evidence evaluation, and use these findings to inform the update of NHMRC’s Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol (2009).
  • Consider comments received during consultation on the draft revised Guidelines.
  • Update the revised draft with consideration to comments received from public consultation and expert review.

Alcohol Working Committee Members:

Professor Kate Conigrave (Chair)
Senior Staff Specialist and Professor of Addiction Medicine at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Sydney Medical School at The University of Sydney.

Relevant Experience:
Clinical and Public Health Research; Addiction Medicine.

Professor Emily Banks (Deputy Chair)
Researcher in chronic disease epidemiology - The Australian National University

Relevant Experience:
Epidemiology; Women’s Health; Pharmaco-epidemiology; Healthy Ageing.

Professor Tanya Chikritzhs
Professor at the National Drug Research Institute - Curtin University.

Relevant Experience:
Epidemiology; Biostatistics; Alcohol Research Policy.

Dr Rebecca Armstrong
Director of Public Health Insight - The University of Melbourne.
Joint Co-ordinating Editor - Cochrane Public Health.

Relevant Experience:
Methodologist; Public Health; Systematic Review; Knowledge Translation.

Dr Michael Livingston
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research - La Trobe University.

Relevant Experience:
Research and epidemiology of alcohol use and alcohol related disorders; Biostatistics; Modelling.

Professor Dan Lubman
Director – Turning Point at Eastern Health
Professor of Addiction Studies and Services - Monash University

Relevant experience:
Clinical research; Mental Health; Addiction Studies and Services.

Dr Colleen O’Leary
Research Associate- Curtin University
Coordinator, Standards Monitoring - Western Australian Office of the Chief Psychiatrist.

Relevant Experience:
Research Policy; Pregnancy and Child Health Research Policy; FASD

Professor Alison Ritter
Director - Drug Policy Modelling Program.
Deputy Director - National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

Relevant Experience:
Drug Policy Research.

Professor Robert Ali
Director- Community Based Treatment Drug and Alcohol Service SA.
Director- WHO Collaborating Centre.

Relevant Experience:
Clinical Public Health; Addiction Medicine.

Professor Peter D’Abbs
Academic- Menzies School of Health Research.

Relevant Experience:
Research Policy; Sociology; Substance misuse.

Dr Mark Harris
Professor of General Practice, Scientia Professor.
Executive Director at the Centre for Primary Health and Equity –
University of New South Wales.

Relevant Experience:

Primary health care; Health services research.

Ms Anne Mckenzie AM
Manager of Consumer and Community Involvement Program –
University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health and the Telethon Kids Institute.

Relevant Experience:
Consumer Advocate

Mr Scott Wilson
Director of Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council - South Australia.

Relevant Experience:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Representative

Ms Nicole Hewlett
Project manager - Menzies School of Health Research

Relevant Experience:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Representative, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Members’ information and Disclosure of Interests

As part of the establishment of an NHMRC committee, each committee member is required to declare their interest including real and perceived interests. NHMRC Disclosure of Interest Policy was updated in 2013 and requires members’ interests, beyond, financial ones, to be considered during the appointment process including whether a management plan is required.

Members were asked to identify, to the best of their ability, interest relating to health effects of alcohol consumption including:

  • Relevant financial activities
  • Relevant professional or organisational experience
  • Other relationships or activities.

No committee member presented interests that indicated a management strategy was required. Members’ interests will continue will be actively managed by NHMRC throughout the guideline development process.

Contact NHMRC’s Alcohol Guidelines Project Team

Postal Address:

Alcohol Guidelines Project Team

National Health and Medical Research Council

GPO Box 1421

Canberra ACT 2601

Email Address: Alcohol@nhmrc.gov.au

Please note: Members of the Alcohol Working Committee are unable to respond to individual enquiries.