Exploring the feasibility of a gambling harm screening model in general practice and community service settings in Fairfield: a pilot study

Aust J Prim Health. 2024 Feb 15. doi: 10.1071/PY23208. Online ahead of print.


Background: Gambling is a growing public health issue in Australia. However, limited research has examined the role of primary health care and social services in routine screening for gambling harm in Australia. This research aimed to explore the enablers and barriers to implementing a co-designed gambling screening model in Fairfield, New South Wales - an area with high gambling expenditure.

Methods: A co-designed gambling screening and referral model for GP and community-based organisations was implemented in Fairfield in 2020. Follow-up interviews were conducted with nine health care professionals who implemented the screening in 130 patients. Thematic analysis generated key barriers and enablers for implementation of this model.

Results: Key enablers for the screening model implementation included structural factors (alignment of the screening model with current work), process factors and staffing factors (staff empowerment). However, we also noted process factors as a barrier to implementation, particularly the referral pathway following screening. Other barriers included social and structural factors, such as the complexity of gambling harm and project funding.

Conclusions: Embedding routine screening in primary and community care settings can play a role in treating, reducing and preventing gambling-related harm, and reducing stigma in Fairfield and beyond. Additionally, screening models such as this provide health systems with clear evidence on the level of gambling harm in their community (particularly important in culturally and linguistically diverse communities who are underrepresented in research). This evidence is important for addressing system-level drivers of harm and advocating for political reform to reduce the impact of gambling on communities.