The Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs (ANACAD) has funded NDARC to conduct a feasibility study for an early warning system (EWS) project, involving a data collection model that allows rapid triangulation of existing data to provide an early warning and current assessment of patterns of drug use and related problems that can be rolled out across jurisdictions and coordinated at a national level.
Although significant data is currently collected and reported upon in Australia, there is opportunity to better use that data to inform decision makers in the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) service provider sector. Further, there may be additional data required to enhance decision making performance. Legislation, policy, resourcing and organisational culture may provide both appropriate and unjustifiable impediments to information sharing.
The broad aim of this project is to investigate the feasibility of an early warning system that allows triangulation of existing data which is sensitive to change and allows rapid assessment of changes in patterns of drug use and related problems. Also, to use this data to inform policy development and rapid response to emerging threats and issues and provide an early indicator of the impact of law enforcement and public health policies and strategies, and to synthesise this data with quality epidemiological data that, by their nature, take longer to collect and analyse to create an accurate assessment of emerging and existing threats and to inform evidence based responses.
To achieve the above project aim the following steps will be undertaken:
- Identify and determine the feasibility of a range of data sources to be utilised as part of an early warning system.
- Identify barriers and possible solutions to accessing the data, triangulation of data sources and filling the gaps.
The project began in February 2017. An Advisory Committee has been assembled and the first meeting was held in March 2017. Systematic review of data sources has commenced.