There are four main lines of work in the Centre. Each line of work is seen as a necessary component of a comprehensive approach to alcohol policy research. Together, the lines cover many of the dimensions of knowledge needed to provide an evidence base for effective alcohol policies and their implementation. There are strong interrelations between the lines; each Centre staff member’s work reaches across lines, and the findings from one line, as noted below, frequently inform the work in another.
Central to building the evidence base for alcohol policy-making is evaluating the effects of alcohol policies, particularly in terms of their effects on patterns and amounts of drinking, and on adverse health and social consequences of drinking. In recent decades, a substantial international literature has accumulated of alcohol policy impact studies, including a number of Australian studies. CAPR has made substantial contributions to this literature.
Public health and order considerations interact with many other factors and influences in alcohol policy formation. Implementing evidence-based policies to reduce rates of alcohol-related problems requires an understanding of the structure and determinants of public opinion on alcohol policies, of the interplay of the varied interests with a stake in the policies, and of the processes of formation and change of alcohol policies. An important aspect of policies is their application in practice, in terms of regulations, enforcement, and the ability of different actors to influence the application of the policies and regulations.
Effective alcohol policy-making and implementation depends on a detailed understanding of patterns and trends in the population at large, and in various subgroups. Such data are needed in the first place for the formulation of policies attuned to social realities: what are the social locations of high rates of various alcohol problems, in terms of demographics and social contexts? What are the trends in different patterns of consumption, and of different alcohol-related problems, in different population segments? The data can thus point to policy opportunities, suggesting promising social contexts and strategies for intervention. Population data are also an important component in the evaluation of the effects and effectiveness of policy measures, and access to and familiarity with the data greatly facilitates studies in the policy impact stream.
Drinking in Australia is primarily a social activity, both enmeshed in everyday life and associated with special occasions. Patterns of drinking and intoxication are therefore deeply influenced by cultural practices and social norms, as well by commercial and market influences and by alcohol policy measures. Understanding drinking customs and norms in the population and in subgroups is thus an important aspect of policy-relevant alcohol research. In addition to the Centre’s growing emphasis on studying Australian youth drinking cultures, its strong international connections and involvement in cross-cultural comparative studies provide a strong base for this line of work.