Impact of alcohol education and training on general practitioners' diagnostic and management skills: findings from a World Health Organization collaborative study

J Stud Alcohol. 2001 Sep;62(5):621-7. doi: 10.15288/jsa.2001.62.621.


Objective: The potential of general practitioners (GPs) to reduce the prevalence of alcohol-related problems via alcohol intervention contrasts sharply with actual practice. One explanation for GPs' limited involvement in alcohol intervention is that they have had inadequate training or continuing medical education (CME) on alcohol-related issues. This study examined GPs' experience of alcohol-related CME and its possible relationship with attitudes and practice behavior regarding alcohol-related problems.

Method: A questionnaire-based survey was returned by 2,139 GPs from 13 countries across Western and Eastern Europe. North America and Australasia. Diagnostic and management skills were assessed by responses to standardized case vignettes.

Results: The survey response rate was 54%. Approximately one third of GPs (32%) reported receiving no alcohol-related CME, while 8% could not remember whether or not they had received any such training or education. Of the remaining GPs (n = 1,217), 23% reported less than 4 hours (low levels) and 37% reported 4 or more hours (high levels) of alcohol-related CME. GPs who reported higher levels of alcohol-related CME were more likely to obtain information about alcohol, were more prepared to counsel problem drinkers and managed more patients for alcohol issues than did colleagues reporting lower levels of CME. Those with greater CME experience were also more confident about their ability to alleviate alcohol-related problems and reported more appropriate management strategies than did GPs with less CME experience.

Conclusions: Greater exposure to alcohol-related CME appears to result in better diagnosis and more appropriate management of alcohol-related problems by GPs. Whether this is directly due to the CME itself or because GPs with greater interest in alcohol issues seek out such experience cannot be ascertained from the current study and requires further investigation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control
  • Alcohol Drinking / therapy*
  • Culture
  • Education, Medical, Continuing*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • World Health Organization