| Colleges Implementing Comprehensive
Strategies to Reduce Alcohol Availability/Marketing
Experienced Less High-Risk Drinking and Alcohol-Related
BOSTON (September 10, 2004)- In an evaluation
of a 10-campus effort to reduce high-risk alcohol
consumption, a Harvard School of Public Health
(HSPH) study released today found reductions in
drinking rates and alcohol-related harms at colleges
that most fully implemented the program model.
The program-A Matter of Degree: The National Effort
to Reduce High-Risk Drinking Among Students (AMOD)-seeks
to foster collaboration between universities and
their surrounding communities to change environments
around campuses that promote heavy alcohol consumption.
The results are published in the October issue
of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The ten geographically diverse college communities
participating in the A Matter of Degree program
were monitored from 1997 through 2001 to evaluate
the program's success in reducing high-risk or
binge drinking during the evaluation period. Specifically,
drinking and harm patterns from these ten AMOD
schools were compared to patterns at 32 matched
colleges from the national College Alcohol Study
(www.hsph.harvard.edu/cas) spearheaded by Henry
Wechsler, Ph.D., a co-author and principal investigator
of the study, and Lecturer in the Department of
Society, Human Development and Health, at the
Harvard School of Public Health. AMOD was developed
and funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
(RWJF), and managed by the American Medical Association
(AMA). The program is funded through 2008.
The evaluation divided the AMOD program colleges
into two groups based on their level of program
implementation as of 2001. At the five program
schools that incorporated more of the AMOD-recommended
environmental policies and programs, significant
changes were noted in drinking and related harms.
These reductions did not occur at the group of
sites that implemented fewer of these changes,
nor at the group of 32 comparison colleges.
Specifically, the evaluation found modest reductions-between
5 and 11 percent-in rates of binge drinking, frequent
intoxication, taking up binge drinking in college,
and in "usually binging when drinking"
at the five program schools that incorporated
more of the AMOD-recommended policies and programs.
Students who drank alcohol at these same five
schools also experienced an 18 percent reduction
in student experience of five or more alcohol-related
problems, such as missing classes, getting in
trouble with police, and getting hurt or injured.
They reported ten percent fewer second-hand effects
from other students' heavy alcohol use, such as
vandalism and interrupted sleep or study time.
Similar reductions were not found at the five
schools that had not implemented a high level
of AMOD-recommended policies and programs. Consumption
and harm patterns among students at the 32 colleges
that did not participate in the AMOD program also
did not decrease during this time period.
Examples of types of policies and programs found
effective by the evaluation include:
- mandatory training for responsible beverage
- requiring registration for purchasers of kegs;
- prohibiting the selling of alcohol without
- keeping alcohol-related items out of student
- expansion of substance-free residence halls;
- promotion of alcohol-free activities.
"These initial findings show that when colleges
and communities focus their prevention efforts
on key environmental influences, they can produce
measurable declines in alcohol consumption and
harms among both drinkers and those around them,"
said Elissa Weitzman, Sc.D., lead author and co-principal
investigator of the study and Senior Research
Scientist in the Department of Society, Human
Development and Health at HSPH. "While the
changes associated with the fuller implementation
of the AMOD environmental program were modest,
this is the first empirical evidence that environmental
prevention strategies can influence drinking among
"For the 12 years that we have studied college
binge drinking, we have not had good news to report,"
said Henry Wechsler. "We are encouraged to
find that the comprehensive approach set forth
by the AMOD program appears to be working. It
is a slow process, since it is not easy for colleges
to implement programs such as these, but the effort
appears to be showing positive results."
For at least a decade, binge-drinking rates have
remained steady at most American colleges, despite
heightened attention by college administrators
and numerous attempts at intervention. The AMOD
program is a departure from the most frequently
employed approaches at colleges, which are primarily
aimed at students through educational programs
about the dangers of heavy drinking. The goal
of the AMOD program is to change the conditions
under which college students are exposed to an
environment that promotes heavy drinking.
"The results of the study offer hope for
colleges willing to address the heavy alcohol
environment enveloping most college campuses,"
said Richard Yoast, director of the National AMOD
Office at the American Medical Association. "We
are finding that communities and universities
can come together to build comprehensive prevention
approaches that target the larger social forces
supporting misuse of alcohol by young people."
"There is reason for optimism on the basis
of these preliminary results," said James
R. Knickman, Vice President of The Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation. "This evaluation will
provide guidance for the next generation of campus-based
prevention efforts. The findings indicate the
promise of taking a comprehensive public health
approach to prevent misuse of alcohol and related
harms among college youth."
In addition to Weitzman and Wechsler, "Reducing
Drinking and Related Harms in College: Evaluation
of the 'A Matter of Degree' Program" was
co-authored by Toben F. Nelson, M.S. (Harvard
School of Public Health, Department of Society,
Human Development and Health, Boston, MA) and
Hang Lee, Ph.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital).
For more information about the HSPH AMOD evaluation,
please visit www.hsph.harvard.edu/amod.
Schools participating in the AMOD program include:
Florida State University; Georgia Institute of
Technology; Lehigh University; Louisiana State
University; University of Colorado; University
of Delaware; University of Iowa; University of
Nebraska at Lincoln; University of Vermont; and
University of Wisconsin. For more information
about AMOD, please visit www.alcoholpolicymd.com.
Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated
to advancing the public's health through learning,
discovery, and communication. More than 300 faculty
members are engaged in teaching and training the
900-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines
crucial to the health and well being of individuals
and populations around the world. Programs and
projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS
vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk
analysis to violence prevention; from maternal
and children's health to quality of care measurement;
from health care management to international health
and human rights. For more information on the
school visit: www.hsph.harvard.edu.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation based in Princeton,
N.J, is the nation's largest philanthropy devoted
exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates
its grantmaking in four goal areas: to assure
that all Americans have access to quality health
care at reasonable cost; to improve the quality
of care and support for people with chronic health
conditions; to promote healthy communities and
lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social
and economic harm caused by substance abuse -
tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs. To this end,
the Foundation supports scientifically valid,
peer-reviewed research on the prevention and treatment
of illegal and underage substance use, and the
effects of substance abuse on the public's health
and well-being. Further information can be found