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HHS Awards $16 Million to Help Primary Care Practices Address Patients’ Unhealthy Alcohol Use


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), today announced a $16 million initiative to help primary care practices increase efforts to address patients’ unhealthy alcohol use.

Excessive alcohol use, which affects almost a third of adults, is the nation’s third leading cause of preventable death. It is a major risk factor for many health, social, and economic problems, and has an estimated annual economic burden of over $250 billion.

“President Trump has promised Americans a healthcare system that’s patient-centric, and treats you like a person, not a number. That means caring for Americans’ full range of health needs, including substance use challenges such as unhealthy alcohol use,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Primary care providers have emerged as an important pathway for connecting patients to treatment for substance use challenges, and HHS is pleased to support, through AHRQ, the testing of innovative approaches toward this end.”

Six grantees will work with more than 700 primary care practices over three years to implement and evaluate strategies to increase the use of evidence-based interventions such as screening for unhealthy alcohol use; brief interventions for adult patients  who drink too much; and medication-assisted therapy for patients with an alcohol use disorder.

“In keeping with HHS Secretary Azar’s commitment to confronting the challenges of substance misuse and addiction, we recognize that many Americans struggle with unhealthy alcohol use, and primary care clinicians are critical to helping patients understand and address this challenge,” said AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna, M.B.A. “These grants will help primary care practices apply proven interventions to tackle this preventable problem.”

 Grantees will be supported by a community of learning that will provide resources, tools, and evidence-based practices. These activities will be facilitated by NORC at the University of Chicago, with Tracy McPherson as principal investigator.

Project interventions will be evaluated by the grantees and an external evaluator assigned to conduct an overarching assessment of the program. The grantees are:

  • Katharine Bradley, Kaiser Foundation Research Institute, and Anya Day, Altarum Institute in Michigan
  • Alexander Krist, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Daniel Jonas, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Perry Dickinson, University of Colorado Denver
  • Melinda Davis and John Muench, Oregon Health & Science University
  • Abel Kho and Theresa Walunas, Northwestern University

This activity is funded by AHRQ’s Patient-Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR) initiative, which identifies research findings that could significantly improve patient outcomes through broader implementation in clinical practice. Earlier this year, AHRQ funded another PCOR project, Increasing the Use of Cardiac Rehab After Coronary Events, a 3-year, $6 million effort designed to save lives by increasing patient participation in cardiac rehabilitation after cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, heart failure, angioplasty, or heart surgery. Access more information about AHRQ’s PCOR investments.

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