Project SMART

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Meetings and Conference

SMART Kick-off Meeting (Barcelona, 10-11 November 2008)


1. Introduction

The meeting began with an overview of the project from Jacek Moskalewicz (IPIN), Co-ordinator of the SMART Project. The discussion that followed emphasized two main points. Every effort should be made
to co-ordinate with the other EU alcohol related projects and the survey methodology of the SMART project should try to link with the EU Health indicators division and the World Health Organisation to enhance compatibility.


All of the partners in the project (attachment 1) introduced themselves and briefly outlined their expertise in alcohol surveys. The provisional agenda of the meeting was agreed with some minor changes (attachment 2). Three working groups were to be established to discuss survey methodology, each with a specific focus
Group 1 - Heavy drinking, binge drinking, drunkenness, dependence and problems
Group 2 - Consumption, unrecorded consumption, drinking context
Group 3 - Survey administration, sampling, quantitative and qualitative methods.
The three groups were asked to

  • Review existing methodology
  • Identify methods most feasible/promising for comparative purposes
  • Identify further steps to be taken to elaborate on a standardized survey instrument
  • Continue their work until next project's meeting.

Participants were invited to join one of the three groups.

2. Work package 1 - Co-ordination of project
Co-ordination of the project was presented by Jacek and discussed by the group. Main points were that every 5 to 6 months each country should report on work progress in terms of time allocation and tasks undertaken. The Institute of Psychiatry in Poland (IPIN), co-ordinator of the project, is to be the sole institute to liaise directly with the Executive Agency on Health and Consumers (EAHC) which execute the project on behalf of the DG SANCO. If anyone has issues or wishes to communicate with the EAHC they must go through Jacek who will bring it to the attention of the EAHC. SMART, through Jacek, will also liaise with other EU alcohol related projects - Building Capacity, FP7 AMPHORA project and the Committee on Data Collection, Indicators and Definitions established as a part of the EU alcohol strategy. There are several projects that have aspects of cost benefit analysis and it was suggested that each project could take different aspects to allow for a more comprehensive examination of this topic and avoid duplication.

3. Work package 2 - Dissemination of results
The proposed plan for dissemination of the project results was presented by Janusz Sieroslawski (IPIN). The main points discussed were the website, materials to be produced and scientific articles to be published. Suggestions were that the web name should be kept short, to try and buy domain name with link to the IPiN website and link SMART website to other relevant websites. In relation to the production of materials, it was felt that a short survey manual should be produced that would allow for translation. It should include the survey methodology and definitions of key terms and a set of core questions that all Member States would be encouraged to use. Materials to go on the SMART Website should be circulated to partners for approval, with a 10 day lag time. The extent of details of collaborating partners and contracted experts was at the discretion of the individual.

It was too early in the process to identify specific scientific articles to be published by the project. Among numerous options, the idea to publish in an open-access electronic journal was considered as time between submission and publication in open-access journals offer is short. It was decided to have a publication issue as an agenda item for the next and subsequent meetings.

4. Work package 4 - Survey methodology
Each partner was invited to give a summary of alcohol survey methodology in their country. In almost all the countries discussed survey data was collected using either face to face or telephone interviews, although mixed methods was also used. Sampling procedures involved random, stratified or quota methods. Definitions varied widely in terms of a standard drink (amount of pure alcohol), heavy drinking and episodic heavy drinking. Drinking context and alcohol problems were measured by some countries. The country presentations illustrated the need for a common core set of definitions and measurement of the key concepts, one of the objectives of the SMART project.

The three working groups as mentioned above were then asked to review existing methodology, identify possible methods for this project and a strategy to work through tasks.

Feedback from Group 1 on
heavy drinking (attachment 3) suggested that the concept of drunkenness was difficult give its strong cultural context and may be too difficult to devise a valid measure. The term 'binge drinking' should not be used and a more appropriate term should be devised for the moment it would be called episodic heavy drinking (EHD). The key points for EHD were the volume of alcohol consumed, frequency, and time frame. Body weight should also be measured to estimate level of EHD or intoxication. Many surveys measure it as drinking over a defined number of drinks on a single occasion. However, the group suggested that rather than have a cut-off point ( as currently) ask for max quantity consume on the EHD occasion. Alcohol problems should include measures on acute, chronic and social problems and alcohol dependence.

The feedback from Group 2 on
volume of consumption (attachment 4) suggested the best measures as beverages specific with quantity and frequency. An additional question could ask on quantity/ frequency of consumption in last week or last drinking occasion. In relation to drinking context a problem identified was that alcohol and drinking context has a different function in different cultures. While a standard drink was useful for analysis it was defined differently in countries and was not understood by the public in general. The duration of the drinking context was also seen as important. Unrecorded consumption usually refers to alcohol purchased while abroad. However, in some countries such as Italy or Poland and Estonia it can reflect the alcohol consumed from unrecorded sources within the country.

Group 3 examined
survey administration (attachment 5) and identified three key issues - sampling (random or quota), questionnaire administration (face to face interview and/or self administration) and type of survey (alcohol specific survey or lifestyle survey with alcohol questions. The group recommended that the final survey manual should include how to analyse the data collected. Group 3 suggested, as part of the literature review, to collect national studies from each of the 27 Member States with a preference for alcohol specific but if not available lifestyle surveys with alcohol questions. It was also suggested the European wide alcohol surveys should be included. Each partner was allocated two to three countries to follow up and check for survey instruments.

The methods for the SMART project pilot survey was discussed - should it be quantitative or qualitative or both, how big/small the sample size, random, quota or purposeful. It was agreed that these questions could not be fully answered until clearer outcomes are defined. This would be the priority of the next meeting.

5. Work package 5 - Cost-benefit methodology
The aim of WP5 is to standardize methodology to undertake cost-benefit analysis of alcohol polices. Peter Anderson (GENCAT) presentation what is already known and what methodologies have been undertaken. He outlined the plan for moving forward on this work package (
attachment 6).

6. Work package 3 - Evaluation
Evaluation of the project will be undertaken by STAKES or by an institution that emerges from a merge of STAKES and Public Health Institute. Esa Ísterberg gave a brief outline of the evaluation plan.

7. Financial Issues
The final part of the meeting discussed financial issues. The Commission was providing 60% of the total cost of the project. The Commission has given the first instalment (30%) of the eligible amount. It was emphasised that each institution must record the allocation of the 40% put forward by each institutions for the project. It is important to review eligible costs. Travel and accommodation must be paid for by each institution from their its individual budget. If the research experts were to change institutions then this would require an official amendment to the contract and would have to be notified and approved by the EAHC which is a lengthy and labour-intesive process.

8. Next meeting
It was agreed that the next meeting would take place on the 12/13 March 2009 in Munich.

Rapporteur - Ann Hope

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