Original articles

Looking back, moving forward: 50 years of South African Medical Research Council alcohol-related publications

C Parry, B Myers, R Matzopoulos, N Morojele, N Siegfried

Abstract


Background. Alcohol is one of the highest risk factors for death and disability in South Africa (SA). 

Objective. To explore the trajectory of empirical research on alcohol in SA between 1969 and 2019, with an emphasis on South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) authored publications. 

Methods. We reviewed published research (Pubmed and Africa-Wide Information) using systematic methods, clear inclusion and exclusion criteria, and defined search terms. The search was not limited by language. Data synthesis was carried out by the first and last authors. 

Results. A total of 867 journal articles met the inclusion criteria, with 243 (28.0%) authored or co-authored by SAMRC researchers. For the latter group, three-quarters had an SAMRC researcher as first or last author. Over three-quarters (78.6%) of the SAMRC author positions (‘first’, ‘last’ or ‘other, counting researchers from a unit only once, but counting authors across different units on a single publication) were from intramural units. Over half the articles authored by SAMRC researchers focused on non-communicable diseases (55.9%), 23.8% focused on communicable diseases, and 10% on crime, violence or injury. Few articles focused on alcohol and tuberculosis (TB), alcohol and cancer, or alcohol policy. Over three-quarters (76.9%) were epidemiological in nature, and 65.3% were cross-sectional studies. There were 17 reviews (7 systematic) and 11 randomised controlled trials (RCTs). There was an increase in the annual number of publications over the 50-year period for both SAMRC and non-SAMRC researchers. Over time, there has been a trend towards publishing on alcohol research in journals published outside SA, but the SAMJ still remains a popular journal choice. 

Conclusion. The SAMRC has contributed substantially to the growing field of alcohol research in SA, but gaps in areas such as alcohol policy evaluation, alcohol and its association with TB and cancer, and interventional research, are evident.


Authors' affiliations

C Parry, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa; Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, South Africa

B Myers, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa;Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

R Matzopoulos, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa; School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa

N Morojele, School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa;School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Psychology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

N Siegfried, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa;Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(11b):30-35. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i11b.14277

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-12-05
Date published: 2019-12-05

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