Sarah Callinan

veski inspiring women bridging the funding gap grant recipient

La Trobe University

A veski inspiring women grant – bridging the funding gap is awarded to Dr Sarah Callinan, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR), La Trobe University

Developing a new screening tool for alcohol use disorders


Dr Callinan won an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) Fellowship, focusing on drinking in the home in 2018. She was unsuccessful in securing funding under the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant Emerging Leaders 2 (EL2) stream in 2023 for her project “Developing a new screening tool for alcohol use disorders”.

Under the veski inspiring women – bridging the funding gap grant, Dr Callinan will be examining how the items that are used in alcohol use disorder screening tools differ when used by different demographic groups. This work will inform and lead to a Category 1 grant that will be used to develop a new screening tool that will more accurately identify alcohol use disorders. By more accurately identifying those that will benefit from intervention resources can be more effectively allocated, reducing harms from alcohol.

Dr Callinan is the study director of the Australian arm of the International Alcohol Control Study, working on international collaborations and all Australian analyses. She co-ordinated an international database of survey research for a NHMRC funded World Health Organisation (WHO) -Thai Health project on alcohol’s harm to others.

Her work on alcohol consumption during pregnancy, home delivery of alcohol and location of consumption has received substantial media attention in both national and local radio and newspapers and has been cited in Federal Parliament submissions aimed at reducing the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Dr Callinan’s work on the International Alcohol Control study led to minimum price legislation being passed and implemented in both the Northern Territory, Australia, and  Wales, UK. In both cases, there is now a minimum price at which a serve of alcohol can be sold. This policy has been successful in reducing both consumption and harm including ambulance attendances, emergency department presentations and alcohol-related assaults. In Wales, the policy led to reduced consumption, primarily in heavy drinking homes.

After completing her PhD in Educational Psychology, Dr Callinan joined the alcohol research field as a research fellow and statistician at CAPR in September 2011, and published her first peer-reviewed paper in 2013. She is now on a steep upward career trajectory with 115 papers (53 since 2020) and has seen 62% of her citations since 2020. This makes Dr Callinan an international authority on drinking in private homes and alcohol survey measurement.

Dr Callinan’s work is cited in submissions that have led to tightened eligibility criteria for the Wine Equalization Tax rebate in Australia and in the working document for the now-passed EU Council Directive that led to the closure of loopholes in cider taxation. Importantly, Dr Callinan’s work is cited in the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol which is highly influential in the formation of the WHO action plan (2022-2030) to implement the global strategy to reduce the harmful alcohol consumption.