27 February 2024

Screening for gambling harm at general practices and community-based organisations could support a holistic approach to client care by addressing gambling as one part of a wider problem, and de-stigmatising gambling harm, a pilot study has found.

The study’s findings were published in a report, Exploring the feasibility of a gambling harm screening model in general practice and community service settings in Fairfield, in the Australian Journal of Primary Health last week (18 February).

The research was undertaken by the Fairfield City Health Alliance Gambling Working Group, a partnership between the three levels of government – SWSPHN, South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) and Fairfield City Council – the multicultural gambling service, social service providers and academics.

It used a community-designed screening tool to detect and reduce harm from gambling in the Fairfield Local Government Area – an area where $1.7 million is lost to poker machines each day, and where people from all walks of life are represented in its diversity of cultures, religions and social backgrounds.

The screening tool, used by GPs and community workers in Fairfield for 13 weeks in 2020, was developed for multicultural communities and materials were translated into three languages (Arabic, Assyrian and Vietnamese).

More than 130 patients completed the online screening and were referred to help services.

Screening data showed 40 per cent of clients had no risk of gambling harm, 17 per cent were considered at-risk due to their gambling behaviour and 20 per cent due to someone else’s gambling behaviour.

Twenty-three per cent of clients were identified as being at risk of gambling harm from both themselves and someone else.

These rates of gambling harm are substantially higher than the 2019 NSW state prevalence survey.

The research findings suggest stigma poses a significant barrier to gambling treatment in multicultural communities, and that gambling screening in general practice could help overcome gambling stigma and support those communities.

The research also highlighted the complexity of gambling harm and treatments.

Community workers emphasised the need to prioritise other pressing issues, such as financial harm, domestic violence and homelessness, particularly for individuals affected by others’ gambling.

One worker ensured clients received emotional and mental health support while providing information about gambling help services.

“Therefore, addressing gambling-related concerns was often not the top priority, rather a secondary issue,” the report said.

The report’s conclusion: “Primary healthcare and community service settings can play a role in screening for and mitigating gambling harm within communities’’.

Read the article