We describe our process of geocoding alcohol outlets to create a national longitudinal exposure dataset for Wales, United Kingdom from 2006 to 2011. We investigated variation in the availability of data items and the quality of alcohol outlet addresses held within unitary authorities. We used a standard geocoding method augmented with a manual matching procedure to achieve a fully spatially referenced dataset. We found higher quality addresses are held for outlets based in urban areas, resulting in the automatic geocoding of 68 % of urban outlets, compared to 48 % in rural areas. Missing postcodes and a lack of address structure contributed to a lower geocoding proportion. An urban rural bias was removed with the development of a manual matching procedure. Only one-half of the unitary authorities provided data on on/off sales and opening times, which are important availability factors. The resulting outlet dataset is suitable for contributing to the evidence-base of alcohol availability and alcohol-related harm. Local government should be encouraged to use standardised data fields, including addresses, to enable accurate geocoding of alcohol outlets and facilitate research that aims to prevent alcohol-related harm. Standardising data collection would enable efficient secondary data reuse using record linkage techniques, allowing the retrospective creation and evaluation of population-based natural experiments to provide evidence for policy and practice.
Published: March 2016