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Usability of existing alcohol survey data in South Africa: a qualitative analysis
  1. Mayara Fontes Marx1,
  2. Leslie London2,
  3. Nadine Harker Burnhams3,
  4. John Ataguba2
  1. 1 Health Science Facult, University of Cape town, Cape town, South Africa
  2. 2 School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  3. 3 South African Medical Research Council, Tygerberg, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mayara Fontes Marx; crrmay002{at}


Objective This paper assesses the usability of existing alcohol survey data in South Africa (SA) by documenting the type of data available, identifying what possible analyses could be done using these existing datasets in SA and exploring limitations of the datasets.

Settings A desktop review and in-depth semistructured interviews were used to identify existing alcohol surveys in SA and assess their usability.

Participants We interviewed 10 key researchers in alcohol policies and health economics in SA (four women and six men). It consisted of academic/researchers (n=6), government officials (n=3) and the alcohol industry (n=1).

Primary and secondary outcome measures The desktop review examined datasets for the level of the data, geographical coverage, the population surveyed, year of data collection, available covariables, analyses possible and limitations of the data. The 10 in-depth interviews with key researchers explored informant’s perspective on the usability of existing alcohol datasets in SA.

Results In SA, alcohol data constraints are mainly attributed to accessibility restrictions on survey data, limited geographical coverage, lack of systematic and standardised measurement of alcohol, infrequency of surveys and the lack of transparency and public availability of industry data on production, distribution and consumption.

Conclusion The International Alcohol Control survey or a similar framework survey focusing on substance abuse should be considered for implementation at the national level. Also, alcohol research data funded by the taxpayers’ money and alcohol industry data should be made publicly available.

  • alcohol consumption
  • alcohol datasets
  • alcohol policy
  • alcohol research

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  • Contributors MFM carried out the desktop review, interviews with key informants and led the writing of the manuscript. MFM, LL, NHB and JA helped to conceptualise the research, reviewed the results, helped to write and revise the manuscript, and approved the manuscript submitted for publication.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town (HREC reference number: 798/2017).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement The data that support the findings of this studyare available on request from the corresponding author, MFM and will be required to agree to the Terms and Conditions of a Data AccessAgreement (DAA), which aims to protect the privacy and interests of theresearch participants.

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