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Galvin, Brian (2017) Performance measurement and resource allocation. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 63, Autumn 2017, p. 10.

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In preparing Reducing harm, supporting recovery, 1 the Department of Health commissioned a performance measurement system to help determine the impact of the strategy on problem substance use at a population level. A performance measurement framework for Drug and Alcohol Task Forces 2 (DAFT) aims to capture how successful task forces are at reducing problem substance use within their own areas. This will help to identify both good practice and weaknesses in local responses and help to guide the allocation of resources to bring about better local services and systemic improvements.


The approach taken in developing this system is consistent with the understanding of wellbeing in the Healthy Ireland 3 strategy. This approach goes beyond reporting outputs or reporting on progress in particular strategic actions and seeks to measure changes in the behaviours that lead to ill-health and threaten wellbeing. The drugs strategy has a number of population-based objectives and it is only by measuring the population effects of interventions that these objectives can be fully evaluated. This is what the authors of A performance measurement framework for Drug and Alcohol Task Forces set out to do. They developed a longitudinal framework to measure the impact of interventions on the level of problem substance use in task force areas. When effects at the local level are aggregated, the success of the strategy as a whole can be assessed.


Measuring problem drug use in a Small Areas

The model at the core of the framework makes predictions regarding the level of problem drug use in a Small Area4 based on a number of social indicators describing levels of deprivation, urbanity and social class. It then compares the predicted level with the actual prevalence of problem drug use as indicated in routine monitoring systems, such as treatment data. If differences are observed between the predicted level of problem substance use in an area and the actual levels over a period of time, we must then ask how has this change come about.


By analysing the nature and level of provision of services in an area, we can begin to see what the impact of prevention, harm reduction or treatment programmes have had on the prevalence of problem substance use in that period of time. The difference may have been due to social or economic changes and these too can be identified. So, the framework takes into account the complex range of factors contributing to the problem substance use situation and the difficulty in relating changes in this situation over time to specific causes.


We can also compare the levels of disparity between predicted and actual levels in different areas. When these levels of disparity differ between areas, comparisons between variables, such as service provision, in these areas provide further opportunity to identify causal factors. By identifying the reasons for differences in outcomes, we can get valuable information regarding the implementation of the strategy. This can also help DATFs improve their actions and interventions over time. The performance measurement framework includes a mechanism to enable funding to be allocated on a more equitable and rational basis, taking into consideration the underlying need in DATF areas. It is envisaged that, as the framework develops, it will be able to incorporate other problem substance use data sources and increase the precision of the system evaluating responses to this problem.


1 Department of Health (2017) Reducing harm, supporting recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017—2025. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27603/

2 Haase T and Pratschke J (2017) A performance measurement framework for Drug and Alcohol Task Forces. Dublin: Trutz Haase — Social & Economic Consultants. Available online at https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27488/

3 Department of Health (2013) Healthy Ireland: a framework for improved health and wellbeing 2013—2025. Dublin: Department of Health. Available at www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19628

4 Small Areas are areas of population comprising between 50 and 200 dwellings created by the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) on behalf of Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) in consultation with the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Small Areas were designed as the lowest level of geography for the compilation of statistics in line with data protection and generally comprise either complete or part of townlands or neighbourhoods. Available online at http://www.cso.ie/en/census/census2011boundaryfiles/

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