More Than Three Times as Many Indigenous Australian Clients at Risk From Drinking Could Be Supported if Clinicians Used Audit-C Instead of Unstructured Assessments
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (‘Indigenous’) Australians experience a greater burden of disease from alcohol consumption than non-Indigenous peoples. Brief interventions can help people reduce their consumption, but people using alcohol at risky levels must first be detected. Valid screening tools (e.g., AUDIT-C) can help clinicians identify at-risk individuals, but clinicians also make unstructured assessments. This study aimed to determine how frequently clinicians make unstructured risk assessments and use AUDIT-C with Indigenous Australian clients. This study also aimed to determine the accuracy of unstructured alcohol use risk assessments relative to AUDIT-C screening. Finally, this study aimed to explore whether client demographics influence unstructured alcohol use risk assessments.
The researchers performed cross-sectional analysis of a large clinical dataset provided by 22 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Australia. They examined instances where clients were screened with unstructured assessments and with AUDIT-C within the same two-monthly period. This aggregated data included 9884 observations. The researchers compared the accuracy of unstructured risk assessments against AUDIT-C using multi-level sensitivity and specificity analysis. The researchers used multi-level logistic regression to identify demographic factors that predict risk status in unstructured assessments while controlling for AUDIT-C score.
The primary variables were AUDIT-C score and unstructured alcohol use risk assessment; demographic covariates were client age and gender, and service remoteness. Clinicians made unstructured alcohol use risk assessments more frequently than they used AUDIT-C (17.11% and 10.85% of clinical sessions respectively). Where both measures were recorded within the same two-month period, AUDIT-C classified more clients as at risk from alcohol consumption than unstructured assessments. When using unstructured assessments, clinicians only identified approximately one third of clients alcohol use at risky levels based on their AUDIT-C score (sensitivity = 33.59% [95% CI 22.03, 47.52], specificity = 99.35% [95% CI 98.74, 99.67]). Controlling for AUDIT-C results and demographics (gender and service remoteness), clinicians using unstructured alcohol use risk assessments were more likely to classify older clients as being at risk from alcohol consumption than younger clients.
Evidence-based screening tools like AUDIT-C can help clinicians ensure that Indigenous Australian clients (and their families and communities) who are at risk from alcohol consumption are better detected and supported.