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Keywords:

  • Alcohol-Related Harm;
  • Brief Interventions;
  • Primary Health Care;
  • Institutionalization;
  • Finland

Despite good evidence for the effectiveness of brief intervention (BI) for hazardous and harmful drinking delivered in primary health care, the uptake of such interventions among physicians and other healthcare staff still leaves much to be desired. Seppänen and colleagues (2012) report an evaluation of efforts funded by the Finnish government to “institutionalize” BI among primary care physicians in Finland. The evaluation was based on 2 surveys of Finnish primary healthcare physicians, one conducted in 2002 before the government-funded implementation project had begun and the other in 2007 after it had ended. Major findings were that the proportion of physicians offering BI had increased between the 2 surveys from 59.2 to 78.5% and that, of those who said they offered BI in 2007, 52.4% reported increased activity compared with 5 years earlier. However, in the 2007 survey, regular BI activity was reported by 17.2% of the sample but 61.3% reported only occasional activity. Also, a separate survey of the Finnish general population indicated that the extent to which people are asked by health professionals about their alcohol consumption, and the extent to which heavy drinkers receive advice about it, still appears to be low. Thus, the claim that the institutionalization of BI in the Finnish primary care system has been successful is tentative. The clinical benefits of increased BI activity are unquestionable but it can be argued that, for a public health benefit to occur, a greater proportion of hazardous and harmful drinkers need to receive BI than is suggested in the data reported by Seppänen and colleagues.